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Jamie Gray (London, UK)

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Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) [CD 1]
Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) [CD 1]

5.0 out of 5 stars there's a reason this song is played the world over, 20 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Everything about the song is superb. From Billie-Joe quietly swearing at himself after the false start to the swelling strings between the verses, to the infamous violin solo and a final gentle string swell before it all fades away, there is nothing you could possibly fault. The production values are superb (certainly when compared to most of their earlier output from 1,000 hours and Kerplunk, which sounded like they had been recorded in a tin can!) and represented a new peak in sonic achievement for a punk (later pop-punk) band. The lyrics and songwriting are excellent. How Billie-Joe can conjure so much feeling and emotion from what is essentially a very basic 3-chord song is nothing short of remarkable. Even the music video has a certain tinged nostalgia to it (you've probably seen it already but YouTube it anyway!) as it follows random people from all walks of life just going about their daily business, interspersed with cuts of Billie-Joe playing his acoustic on a shabby looking mattress in a motel that could be anywhere.

There's a reason this song is played the world over, at weddings, graduations, funerals, sports events and more besides. I grew up listening to this record, age 13-16 and I just wonder what could have been if GD had recorded more acoustic songs or ballads. Look how quickly Coldplay rose to fame by doing just that.. GD could have been even bigger than they are now.

American Pie 7: Book Of Love [DVD]
American Pie 7: Book Of Love [DVD]
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.92

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a spinoff that manages to be even thinner on plot than Beta House..., 20 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
...which is a remarkable achievement in itself!

What Rosanna Arquette is doing in drivel like this is anyone's guess. But even more bizarre is trying to reconcile how this could be the same Bug Hall (who plays Rob) as the one who plays Alfalfa in The Little Rascals several years ago.

The main plot device (and I use that in the loosest sense of the word) revolves around the 'Bible', which of course was an idea first created and developed upon in the very first American Pie. It's never explained why the lads *have* to take a road trip, other than they've just realised their burgeoning independence and can do whatever the heck they want. It's about as teen-sex-movie-by-numbers as it can get. There's an effort to make thinsg more interesting by randomly throwing in a British teen girl (again, never explained why she's at an American high school?) which was probably the most fun I had with this film - seeing how long she could keep the hard-to-get attitude up.

DVD quality sucked and gets 0 stars, had to be returned. There was a bit in the middle of the film where it skipped about 5 and a half minutes! It looked like the inner part of the disc had been badly scratched but it arrived in its plastic case, wonder if those Amazon pickers are just throwing stock around?

American Pie Presents Beta House : American Pie 6 [DVD]
American Pie Presents Beta House : American Pie 6 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Christopher McDonald
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.17

3.0 out of 5 stars Alright way of passing the time - beware DVD issues, 20 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A bit of a Ronseal-type film, in that it delivers on its promises of a lot of boobs and drinking whilst the plot is fairly light (almost nonexistent in fact!).

One assumes Eugene Levy must have had literally nothing else to do except pop in an appearance for every American Pie spinoff going. After his brief showing in 'Band Camp', he inexplicably shows up to umpire the games between the rival frats.

It's a pleasant enough 90 minute distraction but probably doesn't stand up to repeat viewings. If you want topless women and no plot you could always flick on the Playboy channel's 10 minute teaser.

Word of warning - the DVD quality was abysmal and would often skip in places, even though the disc was in its unopened plastic sleeve. I had to return mine twice. It's not dual sided so I wonder where the problem is?

Offered by TwoRedSevens
Price: £4.54

5.0 out of 5 stars consistently entertaining & optimistic, 7 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Dookie (Audio CD)
Dookie ranks as one of very few in my collection that I can put on any time I'm feeling low and it will instantly make me feel better. This is at least the 2nd best album GD have ever produced, an extremely fun and pleasing way to while away your time. They have refined their sound and product from the days of '39' and 'Kerplunk', but have not yet caved into the incessant commercialism of American Idiot and 21st Century Meltdown. This is the album on which they perfected their career-long formula: catchy 2-3 minute accessible and radio-friendly (!) pop-punk songs. And it hasn't half served them well.

However I'd disagree with some of Mike's (the bassist) recent comments that "releasing American Idiot was probably the most "punk" thing we could've done".... They haven't been punk for ages. The most punk thing they could've done was done a gig outside the White House and seeing if they got thrown in the slammer! Railing against authority in general isn't a feature exclusive to punk, either - just look at rock, rap, metal, etc.

And yet, you'll feel an instant urge to mosh to Basket Case, an even stronger urge to lie back, smoke some of that green and chill out with When I Come Around, and leap around your room like a demented pogoist to Longview. There's also a hidden track at the end informing the listener of the delights of self manipulation... so in an ironic way, this album has probably done more for me than the crap sex education at school!

In conclusion, this is a masterpiece. Something this addictive should probably be banned!

Brazzaville Beach
Brazzaville Beach
by William Boyd
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars astonishing, erudite, and a joy to read, 9 April 2010
This review is from: Brazzaville Beach (Paperback)
This is probably one of the best books William Boyd has ever written. One of his greatest strengths as a writer is never patronising his audience or stooping to the lowest common denominator. You get sucked into the cleverly interwoven storylines, each of which are immensely believable and true to life. Characters are fleshed out and environments carefully portrayed down to the finest detail.

Boyd uses the chimpanzee metaphor to perfection. Everyone will draw parallels between the demise of Hope & John's relationship and the degeneration of the tribe into anarchy. Of course, there is one powerful overriding argument emanating from this fine book: the implication that

1. The chimps display extremely tribal behaviour at Grosso Arvore, and are capable of murder to defend their hierarchy
2. We are evolutionarily related to chimps
3. To murder is not inhuman

A compelling read, and worth anyone's time.

The Resistance
The Resistance
Price: £7.29

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars resist the resistance!, 18 Oct. 2009
This review is from: The Resistance (Audio CD)
As other long-term fans have mentioned this album is really disappointing. Compared to the sheer intellect and outrageousness of previous albums, and I've been following them since Showbiz, this feels like a real letdown. There are some serious questions to answer here, like:

1. Why quote Chopin verbatim at the end of United States of Eurasia, or Saint-Saens in I Belong To You? Why wouldn't I just buy a CD of Nocturnes or Samson & Delilah?
2. Why hire a 50-piece string orchestra if all you're going to do is make them play up-and-down chords for 11 minutes? If I wanted to hear well-crafted string writing I'd buy Philip Glass's Violin Concerto.

The thing that is most upsetting to me about this record is that they seem content to go for a "let's mimic 30 other genres and present is as thoughtful musicianship" kind of approach. What can we expect on the next Muse album? A Beatles pastiche? A Led Zep tribute? The real danger of trying to appeal to everyone in the universe is that they end up appealing to nobody.

If you liked Black Holes & Revelations, you'll probably love this drivel. Bring back the old Muse! There is more imagination in one bar of Citizen Erased than the whole of this record!

House - Season 4 - Complete [DVD]
House - Season 4 - Complete [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hugh Laurie
Price: £9.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an outstanding season of a fine TV show, 30 May 2009
--spoilers below!--

House is, quite simply, an outstanding TV series which essentially showcases Hugh Laurie (Blackadder) as a grumpy, prickly departmental head of diagnostic medicine.

The final events of season 3 have meant that, come the start of this season, House needs a new medical team. He achieves this by presiding over several comedic 'reality TV' style contests, in which a large number of potential fellows are whittled down to just a few. Along the way, each of the newcomers is gradually given more depth and nuance, and gradually coloured in just a little more.

The introduction of some fresh blood (no pun meant) was a smart move from the writers, as I can't have been the only one to be getting tired of the Cameron/Chase/Forman team. I think they were extremely perceptive in acknowledging the importance of modernising and updating the show. In particular, the character of "Thirteen", played by Olivia Wilde, may well help swell the show's fan base by appealing to her fans from The O.C.

The final two episodes will leave you speechless. The filming of the bus crash scene in "House's Head" sets demanding new standards for TV crews everywhere. After we learn of Amber's fate, there's a poignant montage including Taub arriving home and cuddling his wife, even though his character has previously confessed himself to be an adulterer. The depth of humanity so obviously evident throughout all seasons of House does, in my view, set it apart from virtually every other existent TV series. Yes, these characters are doctors, but doctors are humans too, and like all of us, they are capable of making mistakes - professionally, personally or otherwise.

In summary, every awards body in the world should recognise the level that the writers, cast and crew have attained with this hilarious, intentionally politically incorrect TV series.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2010 11:46 AM GMT

Rome: The Complete HBO Season 1 (6 Disc Box Set) [DVD] [2006]
Rome: The Complete HBO Season 1 (6 Disc Box Set) [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Kevin McKidd
Price: £17.50

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive series steeped in historical fact, 13 Mar. 2008
What's to say that hasn't already been said?! Gorgeous production values, completely immersive camerawork, very clever integration of digitally produced shots (e.g. the Senate) with live shots, and probably best of all, believable acting. You won't find Rome's actors trying to do po-faced pastiche, that's for sure. I had serious trouble getting over the fact that Kevin McKidd is the same actor from Journeyman!

Clearly, a lot of hard work has gone into replicating and recreating life as it was for the Romans. There will undoubtedly be a few squeamish viewers who will find the constant portrayals of sex and violence a bit much - but we must remember that the directors aren't leaving it in for the pure sake of it, this is how life really was for the Romans.

One minor gripe is that after a while, the sets and locations don't seem to be varied enough. There are the usual scenes from the Forum, the houses of some key figures (mostly Atia and Servilia) and various fight scenes in open space, but I'd like to see a little more variation. However, the sheer depth of detail that is so obvious throughout more than makes up for this. In any case, as this is a TV show, it's entirely forgivable as the budget won't be as huge as a mega Hollywood production.

A second minor gripe is the occasional slip in historical fact. Gladiator had its moments (why are the extras wearing jeans before the first battle scene?) and so too does Rome, e.g. Atia died in 43 BC but in the show is still alive in 31 BC.

There are clearly a lot of talented crew at work here. Virtually every episode in the series has a different director, although the producers remain the same, which is really good to see because it means that HBO/BBC have let several artists fulfil their vision.

Glancing over the cast again, Polly Walker could have been made for the role of Atia, whilst Kerry Condon is a beautiful if weak-willed Octavia. Finally, Lindsay Duncan also excels as Servilia, her every step exuding sheer menace and suppressed hate.

In short, this is one of the best-produced TV series I have ever seen. There is no disputing the quality and credibility on show, and I have no hesitation in recommending it for those wet nights in. It's just a shame that the Beeb didn't see fit to make a third series, but you can't have everything!

Black Holes And Revelations
Black Holes And Revelations
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £6.87

12 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Different to what you'd expect ... but better?, 16 Aug. 2006
This is the fifth release from Muse (if you count Hullabaloo) and clearly shows them heading off into new musical territory - there's a heavy electro feel to it. It's almost as if they sat down and decided to write an album that would only appeal to their German fanbase. (add Spanish fans for City of Delusion/Hoodoo) The album shows Muse making stylistic decisions similar to that horrible R-word band... then again, if you make 2-3 mostly guitar-driven albums and foray off into electronica, I suppose the constant comparisons are inevitable.

1. Take A Bow 4/10

This is actually one of my least favourite tracks on the album. It's almost as if they've stolen out of their own back catalogue and combined the electronicy bits of Bliss with the political undermessage of Citizen Erased. Takes far too long to really get going and by the time it does, you won't be interested.

2. Starlight 6/10

Considering the lyrics contain the words of the album title, you'd expect this track to make a strong case for the album as a whole. However, the chord progressions are unimaginative - they remind me of Keane or Snow Patrol, actually - and there doesn't appear to be much lyrical depth. At the end of Starlight, Matt is pretty much singing what he was at the start - it might make the song unified but it doesn't quite endorse the claims of those who say the song is grandiose, expansive, etc. I've come to expect more musical development over 4 minutes by Muse.

3. Supermassive Black Hole 5/10

Matt does his best Prince impression whilst Chris has a go at backing vocals singing about glaciers melting in the dead of night. Aside from the solo and the drum/vocal combo when verse 2 starts, this is another example of lazy workmanship both lyrically and melodically. It has some alright electronic effects but of course that doesn't make a good song in itself.

4. Map of the Problematique 5/10

Here, they try hard to create some interesting textures but I'm ultimately left cold by this one. It sounds like they're building up to something massive and huge - the problem being that the huge bit never arrives.

5. Soldier's Poem 5/10

A version of Blackout for Black Holes & Revelations. Thematically this is about a soldier being stationed in Iraq. Same arpeggio shapes, same 6/8 time signature, so what's changed? Not much, to be honest. We get treated to Matt's vocals harmonised by Chris's. (and Dom's?) Again, the half-baked, unfinished feeling is hard to shake off.

6. Invincible 6/10

The opening half-minute sounds like a pastiche of Queen on Made In Heaven. A military-style drum beat enters and vanishes at about 2:30 - at this point the bass part seems to be closely modelled on Franz Ferdinand with the usual "quaver on/quaver off" pattern. Invincible finally gets going at 3:40 or so. You may have pressed forward on your CD player by then - I did.

7. Assassin 9/10

Why oh why oh why could they not make an album full of tracks like this? A searing drum fill to lead into verse 1 and easily as bassy and thrashy as Stockholm Syndrome. Judging from the reactions of others this one is a favourite too. More political overtones lyrically.

8. Exo-Politics 4/10

This is poor work by Muse's standards. There is no change in drum pattern throughout 4 minutes, and yet again not enough lyrical depth. A consolation guitar solo halfway through doesn't do enough to lift it. They seem to have their priorities wrong - I wouldn't mind hearing half of this song and double of Soldier's Poem.

9. City of Delusion 6/10

It's almost something of a Muse trademark to have a Spanish sounding guitar track on every album these days. Don't believe the Amazon blurb about them having a new sonic overhaul, because this could be Darkshines' twin brother. A Mariachi-style trumpet entering before the end does nothing to make that feeling go away. Yes Muse, you've given your German and Spanish fans plenty to cheer about on this album, but don't neglect your native English ones!

10. Hoodoo 3/10

This is a pointless track. A quieter, more contemplative song while Matt is still stuck in Spanish guitar mode. The foot tapping at the start of the song will either remind you of Kill Bill or Queen's Innuendo. It's certainly not brave, bold and imaginative - Queen did this 15 years ago!

11. Knights of Cydonia 9/10

A bold 6-minute opus which starts out with the twin sounds of hooves and lasers. The strummed chords are very spaghetti western/Ennio Morricone and conjure images of dusty ranch towns in places like Texas, which seem fairly incongruous next to futuristic laser sounds. Overall, the track builds nicely. From 3:20 there are some 'War of the Worlds' style effects going on with the vocals, and then....AMEN! Finally a riff worth bothering about. Muse are still stealing off themselves though - just listen to how the song opens and ends. The noises are more or less identical to Ruled By Secrecy. That's the only thing stopping this song getting a 10.

OVERALL - 6/10

Musically, they are as tight as ever. But there is something about this album which is holding me back from warming to it and giving it a better rating. The time has come when you have to make your own mind up and not believe the publicity - especially the over-generous 5 star rating in Q, for example. The ghost of Queen haunts this album somewhat, from the Bohemian Rhapsody-style artwork in the limited edition pack to the all-out rock of Assassin. And it's not a bad template to copy. Queen are, after all, one of the very illustrious elite in rock n' roll history. It just doesn't make for particularly "challenging, bold, and creative" music. Muse normally preview a new direction for the next album in the last track. If Knights of Cydonia is anything to go by, a stadium rock album wouldn't hurt their fortunes. They are capable of much better work than this - perhaps the old saying is true: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Origin of Symmetry
Origin of Symmetry
Price: £5.56

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant second album, 14 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Origin of Symmetry (Audio CD)
For all those who generated the idea that Muse were merely Radiohead wannabes, this should prove you somewhat wrong. This is theatrical, entertaining music at its best, and not even Absolution comes close. Origin sounds like a cohesive, well-executed project that really works, whereas Absolution sounds like 14 stylistically disjunct tracks written to satisfy new listeners from all backgrounds.
This is fine music making, but there are still some flaws here. The chords in New Born and Space Dementia are more or less the same; (why not call it New Born Part 2 a la Pink Floyd?) Screenager sounds hopelessly limp and rather an afterthought; Citizen Erased has long subdued sections straight after the showcase riff, which dampen the enthusiasm and make me think 'next' (the final 3 minutes of Space Dementia did likewise); and finally, there seems to be a certain penchant for reliance on the quiet-loud-quiet theory. (Reverse that on Plug In Baby) I guess I can forgive them though, for the aplomb with which Muse pull it off. Prog rock suits this band very well indeed.
Overall, this is a more than capable second album and it deserves being paid attentin to - certainly for £8, nothing can touch it!

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