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Seamus Connor

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Lolita (Penguin Classics)
Lolita (Penguin Classics)
by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How do you approach a novel concerning paedophilia?, 5 Jun. 2006
'Lolita' is probably the most risque novel ever written. Humbert Humbert, the narrator, is addicted to the most deplorable of human sins - worse than murder, even - phaedophilia.

Despite his vices, despite his unashamed pretentiousness, Humbert is a most appealing character. How? The fine employment of words is key. Such is the description of Humbert's infatuation with Dolores Haze - 'Lolita' herself - that the reader is inundated with beauty, rather than digust. Humbert does not merely want to copulate with his muse; he mentions marriage; he is tantalised when she merely slouches in a chair. Nabokov's prose has been likened to poetry. In fact, at times within this novel, it actually is poetry. Analysis reveals perfectly metrical and rhythmic poetry embedded within prose. Delicate wordplay, hints and insinuations, character assassinations; all course through the pulp of the novel.

Previous reviewers have accussed Nabokov of ruining the novel, mid-way. This may or may not be true. Before reading 'Lolita', all I knew of it was that it concerned a man in love with a young girl; I did not know how far their relationship would progress, or that it should contain a murder. It is this murder that sustains the novel through this problematic mid-section. Where the pace of the text decreases, the suspense still grips. The reader knows a murder is committed - but is left unaware of the victim until the latter pages, at which point the plot has regained momentum.

The true test of a great novelist should be this: can you they make their reader empaphise with a savage and pretentious paedophile?

Nabokov gets full marks.

A Grand Don't Come For Free
A Grand Don't Come For Free
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £3.70

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skinner doesn't falter on his second effort., 27 May 2004
Following the widely acclaimed 'Original Pirate Material' was never going to be easy. Mike Skinner - or the Streets as he's better known, had to avoid the temptation of recording an album which sounded exactly the same as his debut - accurate depictions of the life of a British youth over garage beats.
He hasn't drastically changed the formulae, but by basing 'A grand don't come for free' around a story and developing a concept album Skinner has allowed himself to stick to his trademark musical sound without compromising his audiences interest in the CD. That said there are slight changes to the sound of the album - the soundscapes sound less linear than on 'Original pirate material', no doubt to a larger budget devoted to production, and lead single 'Fit but you know it' even uses punk guitar as the prominent instrument. Generally the drum and synth endorsed beats are less energetic than on Skinner's debut, taking a more down-tempo route in order for Skinner to tell his tale to maximal effect.
The tale isn't very exciting, it basically highlights our hero losing a grand, getting with a girl who cheats on him with a friend, and then breaking up with her. Spread out over 11 tracks though, Skinner imprints the plotline with his own witty charisma and charm, weaving small details into it and hints and indications at things that happen later in the story - such as 'Blinded by the lights' where he leaves a clear indication that his girlfriend could be playing away.
Being plot driven the tracks on the album lose some of the social insight that littered 'Original Pirate Material' and you begin to miss it - until you realize the cleverness of the songs which Skinner has assembled here, such as 'Get out of my house'. This moralistic slice of the story details a row between Skinner and girlfriend Simone on the premise that he wasn't present to help her when she was throwing up and ill, due to his need to get some pills. Skinner masterfully gears the listener against him until he forcefully flips the whole topic on the third verse of the track. It turns out that Simone was only sick as the result of a hangover, and Skinner was getting pills which he needed for his epilepsy, so Simone was the one in the wrong in actuality. 'Could well be in' is a low-tempo track which epitomises the feeling at the beginning of a new relationship, 'Blinded by the lights' features Skinner tripping on illegal substances, 'Dry your eyes' details the end of the relationship to the devastating effect which Skinner suggested he could command on love tracks in 'It's too late'. The final track, 'Empty cans' builds up to a crescendo of anger and agony until breaking out into a glorious new dawn with a final twist in the story. It evokes a feeling reminiscent of a movie where you really care for the lead character, and are swamped in a wave of warmth as they get their happy ending. For essentially, this album is the closest an audio cd will ever get to being a movie which a charming, if unlikely lead character.
It has been suggested that garage and urban music in the UK could take the prominence which Britpop held in the 1990's, lead by the Streets, Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and co. It's a plausible notion as well, 'Fit but you know it' could easily be the 'Parklife' for a new generation, and Mike Skinner still has the ability to translate British humour and the lifestyle of a twenty-something 'geezer' to an audio format without turning it into a laughable farce. References to days sent in the pub fiddling with ash trays and beer matts, and to ITV documentaries ('I saw this thing on ITV the other week saying if she played with her hair she's probably keen') all point at a quintessentially British hero. With 'A grand don't come for free' the Streets have triumphed with the make or break second album, epitomising the lives of a generation with masterful storytelling, clever songwriting and what stands up as a classic album.

Permission To Land
Permission To Land
Price: £2.99

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Permission granted..., 23 May 2004
This review is from: Permission To Land (Audio CD)
Months after purchasing this album I'm still abit bemused about what to make of The Darkness. The OTT nature of this record and the garish fashion sense of the band seemed to indicate a tongue in cheek agenda, but their recent insult hurling at contemparies would point in the opposite direction.
Not that it really matters, with an album full of sing-a-long anthems and infectious tunes. The Lowestoft group hark back to an 80's era of big hair and even bigger guitar riffs. Single 'Get your hands off my woman' became the song on everybodies lips upon its release with such a quotable chorus. Fortunately for the band, the album is full of such choruses and as such they cannot merely be disregarded as a novelty group.
The single 'I believe in a thing called love' is what really set the band alight in Britain and most will be familiar with the varying pitch of Justin Hawkin's vocals on the track which proved to be such a winner with the public. 'Growing on me' and 'Love is only a feeling' have a similar sound to the single, whereas the slightly dodgy 'Black Shuck' and standout track 'Love on the rocks with no ice' go for a full out rock'n'roll assault. 'Dancing on a Friday night' is one of the most noteworthy tracks on the album due to it's irresistable catchy qualities, and I can only salivate over the effect it would have on a live audience on a Friday night. Yes, musically theres nothing new on this album, but then the band never claim there is. The Darkness unashamedly steal from every anthem filling rock act you've ever heard, and replicate the sound to credible results.
Though the album does have a few less noticeable tracks, 'Permission to Land' heralds a new era of anthemic, infectious theatrical rock and The Darkness should be commended for the courage and lack of dignity with which they tackle it. It's big, not too clever, but 'Permission to land' sure does rock.

The College Dropout
The College Dropout
Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £3.29

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars West brings conscientous hip-hop to the mainstream., 23 May 2004
This review is from: The College Dropout (Audio CD)
It wasn't with much anticipation that I awaited Kanye West's debut 'College dropout'. Producer's turned rappers are generally better of sticking to the studio work, and I expected West to be the same. I was already a fan of his production work though, after first coming into contact with it on Jay-Z's last great album, 'The Blueprint'.
I delayed buying this album for as long as I could, but the catchiness of the lead single 'Through the wire' caught me off gaurd and I invested in the LP, finding that it was pleasantly suprising. Kanye manages to stand up as a good rapper, despite some clumsy delivery and cheesiness. He has a good level of microphone presence and good will and charisma ooze from his lyrics, a u-turn from the thugged-out gangsta posing of 50 cent and his contemparies. Kanye flips these topics, bringing social issues such as religion and poverty to the forefront without the contradictory elements that 2pac embodied, or the gun endorsement which most other rappers swear by. Kanye West is not the first hip-hop artist to make political statements within his music, and is not the best at doing so, but it's credible that he will be the man to do so with the most effect upon the mainstream market.
The guest spots on the album are meticulously placed. Talib Kweli, Common and Twista all shine, but the real guest stars are Jay-Z and Mos Def who demolish the tracks they are featured on. It can only be positive that Kanye West is showcasing artists not familar with the mainstream such as Mos Def, Kweli and Common with histories of high-level social insight in their recordings. The production is top notch throughout, as expected by Rocafella's premier beatmaker. Other reviewers have criticized the skits on the album, and normally I'm not in favour of the skits which litter rap albums but they seem comfortable on 'College dropout', and are actually quite funny, with messages behind them. Lyrically, Kanye brings some cringeworthy but hilarious lines to the table 'got a light skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson, got a dark skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson,' and packs a level of wordplay which should keep the less mainstream heads happy -'couldn't afford a car so she named her daughter Alexis'. Single 'Through the wire' is innovative for the fact that Kanye recorded it with his jaw covered in metal wire after his car accident. The sincerity of Kanye is touching, on 'Never let me down' he raps 'I can't complain what the accident did to my left eye, 'cause look what an accident did to Left eye, first Aaliyah and now Romeo must die? I know I got angels watching me from the other side.'
I've seen people idolising this album as the new 'Illmatic'. It's not. Kanye isn't as lyrically talented as Nas, his insights aren't as sharp or vivid, and the album is not diverse enough in production. To often Kanye falls back on his trademark sped-up vocal and old soul samples for choruses of tracks. What it does represent however, is a possible turning point in the mainstream from violent and gangster based rap to more socially acute hip-hop. Kanye West has produced an album which breaks moulds and puts most college graduated rappers to shame.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.09

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have., 22 May 2004
In the tradition of popular music, concept albums are generally poor and unsatisfying. Dire, even, with the exception of that rare few - Van Morrisons seminal 'Astral Weeks', David Bowies loosely connected glam rock fest 'Ziggy star dust' and Mike Skinner's 'A grand don't come for free' are a few gems in a mine of mud and rubbish. It was with a certain degree of trepidation then that I approached a concept album about a girl battling an army of pink robots from a band who I'd never heard a lot about before, and despite critical acclaim, upon first listen I was dissappointed.
The second listen was the same. And the third. But gradually the psychedelic, digital, orchestral indie-rock on display began to seep into my psyche and dig away at me, until the album had me hooked and stayed on constant rotation in my cd player for a number of weeks. Now I know that psychedelic, digital and orchestral indie-rock all sound contradictory, and they are. But 'Yoshimi battles...' blends the various styles and influences seamlessly into what initially may appear random and scattered arrangement, but will progressively unravel until it all makes perfect sense, much in the fashion of Captain Beefheart's classic 'Trout mask replica'.
The album opens to a harsh electronic voice reverberating before breaking into a summery introspective tune which initially sounds reminiscent of 'Father and son' before finding it's own shape. One more robot / sympathy 3000-21 is blessed with Coyne's soft centred vocals which bring a ludicrous concept to have some emotional effect as he sings 'one more robot wants to be something more than a machine' to a pacy drum snare and electronic sounds. The two namesake songs of the album spiral towards a frantic and chaotic electronic climax yet somehow retain a sense of melody amidst the confusion of Yoshimi's screams and laser shots. Later the listener is sonneted by the innocent charm of 'Do you realize' as Coyne softly sings plaintive but touching lyrics to a low tempo track.
Such a medley of styles and influences would normally provide a stumbling block for any artist or band, but apparently not with The Flaming Lips. Traces of artists ranging from Captain Beefheart to Kraftwerk to Blur are detectable within this album, yet for all their contrast they blend perfectly. Though the subject matter is ludicrous, the psychadelia of the record and the heartfelt vocals of Coyne combine to submerge the listener in the story and the music. Small touches such as a chorus of girls making karate chop noises in the back ground to the lyrics of 'Her name is Yoshimi, she's a black belt in karate' are a measure of the intracicy of the album, it's quirkiness, and it's charm. The production from the band, Dave Fridmann and Scott Booker is pin-point accurate throughout the album throughout, and the track-listing is perfect - the cd plays as if it were one song flowing through different phases, not a collection of songs - as any good concept album should. Infact the term 'good concept album' is not applicable here. It would be more appropriate for 'Yoshimi battles the pink robots' to inherit that rarest of terms 'great concept album' which has been passed down from The streets, David Bowie and Van Morrison. Fantastic stuff.

by Jeffrey Eugenides
Edition: Paperback

64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic saga., 23 Mar. 2004
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
This is one of those few novels that had me enchanted from the first page, and I didn't put it down untill the last.
I initially bought it on a whim, as it was on offer and the write ups were good for it. However it has cemented it's place as one of my favourite books to be released in recent times.
Middlesex is basically an epic family saga, covering three generations of the Greek Stephanides family as they emigrate from their homeland to America. Historically accurate as the story unfolds around the social backgrounds of the changing eras the reader is consumed in the realism of the novel - this could easily be a real Greek-American family. The greek connection is kept firmly within the book as the narrartor, Cal, recounts lesser known Greek myths in connection with her own story. This leads on to an unusual device by Eugenides to seperate the story further from typical family saga's - Cal is a hermaphrodite.
This condition does not override the novel, in fact it takes a backseat for the vast majority of it until the end. However, the research which Eugenides has done into this and the other subjects touched by the book is clearly astounding as his accuracy in his portrayal is astonishing.
The character development is superb - each character over the three generations develops a unique personality encouraging and coaxing readers to fall in love with them. You will. The emotions of each character seems to jump off the page and take a place in your heart.
Far from just being based around the family house the novel is also packed with its share of action - riots & a car chase are amongst these.
Eugenides description of this epic novel is beautifully vivid and weaves an enchanting image of the lives and inhabitats of his characters. It is cinematic in everything but format.
I've been struggling to think of a negative to say about the book before I finish my review but there really aren't any. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The Definitive Collection
The Definitive Collection
Price: £6.99

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music for all generations., 28 Dec. 2002
Stevie Wonder is perhaps the most influential figure in musical pop culture over the last 50 years. His enthusiasm and energy that he puts into his music is infectious for all those around him or any listeners. His music has been sampled or covered by such a wide range of artists as thug posturing rapper Ja Rule, to the Boy George lead Culture Club.
The reasons why he has influenced such differing artists become apparent when you listen to this album. The music is brilliant.
Wonder's soulful voice leaps and soars through 38 tracks, ranging from supremely catchy pop classics, to sentimental love ballads, and funky slices of soul pie.
Im only 16 and hadnt really heard much of Stevie Wonder before but liked people like Marvin Gaye, and my parents bought me this album. It is one that I love and my parents love - a very rare feat! This truly is music for all generations.
To say Stevie Wonder is a legend would be an understatement and a insult to the man. He is more than that. Buy this album!

Greatest Hits
Greatest Hits
Price: £3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Willie Style, 27 Dec. 2002
This review is from: Greatest Hits (Audio CD)
Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff are perhaps the men who did the most to bring rap & hiphop to the forefront of mainstream music. This compilation basically summarises all of their greatest hits (except 'Boom! shake the room') and some new songs.
We see Will in his earlier days with catchy angst songs such as girls aint nothin but trouble, but there was no swearing or shocking imagery, no violence, such as featured in popular bands of the time such as N.W.A.
We see his transgression to big film soundtracks - as ever with catchy hooks - and to straight party tracks such as Miami.
The worst track is the insepidly soppy 1000 kisses with Will's wife Jada. But programme your CD player to skip this and your in for a fine walk down memory lane of summers gone by.
One thing Will has always been able to do is stay popular, and change his style to suit the market, always coming up with catchy lyrics and pop hooks, that mad your mum actually think a rapper was cute. No mean feat!
He may not have the best street cred. but there is no doubting what Will has done for hiphop and pop music. Most of the songs on the album will be familiar to listeners and within a few times of hearing them are garunteed to have you singing along!

The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse
The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy sequel to the Blueprint. Better though? Im not sure, 18 Nov. 2002
I Just bought this album today and have been listening to it pretty much non-stop. I have to admit I'm impressed. It doesn't really have the immediacy of the original blueprint, with nothing to match the ruthlesness of 'the takeover' or a really big manufactured hit that everyone can relate to such as 'IZZO'.
What it does have though is great beats, heavy rhymes and 2 discs full of quality songs. The first song, 'A dream' kicks the album of in great style, with one of Big's verses of his classic hit 'Juicy' used. Hovi baby follows in similarly impressive style. Love it or hate it, Bonnie and Clyde is on this album, and though a lot of people think Jay is disrespecting 2pac by covering his hit, I think the Jigga man does it justice.
Guns & Roses with Lenny Kravitz has potential to be a commercial smash, but for me the standout track on the album is Some How Some Way, an emotional joint about the struggle out of the ghetto.
The album is similar to the original blueprint in that it uses catchy soul samples as hooks to the songs, but the production is even better here, it blew me away.
Dre, The Neptunes and Timbaland are outclassed by Kayne West and Just Blaze, these guys are gonna be big!
Overall its a great album, is it better than the blueprint? Im not sure if Jays rhymes are up to the quality found there, I guess your just gonna have to decide for yourself! You wont be dissapointed if you buy it!

8 Mile (Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture)
8 Mile (Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture)
Price: £3.76

10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars he can rap, act, what else???, 14 Nov. 2002
First off, this is a great CD. I haven't had the chance to see the movie yet, but you really get a feeling of what it epitomises and what its about from listening to the tracks found here.
From the kick off with Eminem's new infectious single, 'Lose yourself' you lose yourself in the music. In fact all of Em's material impresses on this album, a lot of which he found inspiration for on set.
Most of it is catchy and will have mainstream hiphop heads chanting along no doubt, but at the same time it keeps it real enough for the grittiness and struggle of the ghetto to shine through and warrant respect of underground hiphop heads.
Every beat on the album is a dope one, and though one or two verses dissapoint, most of the flows are plain slick rhymin'.
Alot of the tracks are quite political, based on the struggle of making it out of poverty and into success. Don't let the politics put you off though, the album's great.
50 cent has been making quite a lot of noise recently with his signing to Shady records and 'Wanksta' his contribution to the soundtrack, doesn't dissapoint.
What struck me about this album is it's crossover potential between mainstream and underground. There are mainstream artists such as Eminem, and underground artists and bands such as boomat and gangstarr all featured on the same disc. Could this be the CD to bridge the divide? Hopefully.
It will take a lot of effort, but let's just hope the film can match the magnificence of the soundtrack.

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