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Jmrichardson "Jaz" (MCR)
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Hookworms
Hookworms
Price: 2.49

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4.0 out of 5 stars A 12 inch Hookworm..., 17 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Hookworms (MP3 Download)
In the ironically cramped universe of space rock in the 21st century Hookworms set sail on their maiden voyage through the stars. The Leeds based band known only by their initials are currently making a name for themselves though, and on the basis of this, their 12" vinyl release, the self titled Hookworms, it is a name well deserved.
Fuzzy grooves, swooshing guitars brings you music that floats and attacks in equal measure. Too focused for noodling, the songs unwind and realign themselves. Snotty vocals add a touch of garage rock.
While the songs shift in tone more than feeling like individual pieces, "Teen Dreams" is suprisingly catchy, in that it has something resembling a chorus (odd what you can find in space eh?)and is a real aural joy. The records' trim 26 minutes flies by.
Hookworms certainly deserve to be at the forefront of the current psych revival.


Psalms
Psalms

4.0 out of 5 stars Mid 80s Wobble curio, 17 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Psalms (Audio CD)
A very pleasant suprise as this mid 80s effort sees Wobble attempting to be more commercial, before even his return with Invaders Of The Heart.
More commercial than you may be used to, with Wobble occasionally sounding like a hybrid of New Order / A Certain Ratio with a hint of his future world music exploits, Psalms is worth hearing.


White Manna
White Manna
Price: 4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars More spacey than the pair of alien mandibles gnawing hungrily at your shins..., 17 Oct 2013
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This review is from: White Manna (MP3 Download)
White Manna are an American space rock band of longhairs with a plentiful stash of... effects pedals.
Slowed to a drawl White Manna (the album) starts off with a druggy haze of guitars. No one drawls like White Manna...
The band has a delicious sense of groove. I was lucky to see them live at the Liverpool Psych Festival but to be honest thought the wailing guitar abuse was a little too dominant over the ryhthm section so sounded a little bit too much like 70s rock (just my view though). Here though things are more balanced and what you have is a fine space rock / psychedelic brew.
The songs take shape against a backdrop of an expanding solar system and flow with a relentless, impeturbable energy, like the engines of a star cruiser. An apex of guitar is a solar flare.
Songs speed up, songs slow down. Vocals come and go. You just nod your head to the beat / or nod out?
As the previous reviewer points out, Wooden Shjips is an obvious touchstone for this album. Hawkwind's seminal Space Ritual is clearly an influence.

No songs stand out but a journey isnt about any individual section, it's about the whole trip...


Bullet to the Head [DVD]
Bullet to the Head [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sylvester Stallone
Price: 5.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Promise vs Delivery, 17 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Bullet to the Head [DVD] (DVD)
As a huge fan of The Warriors and The Driver I had big hopes for Walter Hill's return to movie making.
However, Bullet To The HEad is strictly 3 star stuff, whiles a way a night but doesnt leave much of an impression.
The story is amazingly lacking in originality, Hill was always the master of simplicity but this isnt the bare bones of a story, its the rotting carcass of a story.
The cast is pretty low rent - Sung Kang's sidekick has all the charisma of a lettuce sandwhich. Chrsitan Slater hams it up as usual though, in fact, more would of his character would have been nice as he is certainly entertaining.
Sarah Shahi is also shockingly unerused and a waste of a great actress. It would have been more interesting to see Stallone and Shahi as a father / daughter team of hit men as opposed to the ancient plot device of a kidnapped daughter.
On the positive side Jason Mamoa is a suprisingly memorable villain.
The action scenes are OK but nothing spectacular.
The main thing that left me dissapointed though is that one of my favourite directors teaming up with Sly Stallone could and should have been an old school blast of action, what we get is however a movie that is made and packaged that makes it indistinguishable from the production rank of action movies starring at Best Jason Statham and at worse WWE wrestlers, even down to the opening titles and the CSI style photography. Instead of trying to follow trends it would have been better if Walter Hill had used the tricks of the trade he knows best and showed why he was a pivotal film maker.


Seawitch
Seawitch
by Alistair MacLean
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.35

2.0 out of 5 stars Join MacLean..., 1 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Seawitch (Paperback)
on an oil rig and here and there.
Sigh, another later MacLean novel and another one I'm struggling to finish.
The setup sounds great - a shady businessman pitted against a man sworn to take down his empire.
Great hook for a story! Except... that isnt really what happens. John Worth, the shady businessman, doesnt feature all that much and isnt that much of a villain, Ok he bends the law a little bit but big deal. Meanwhile, John Cronkite (he's the hero, his name is John after all, this is a MacLean story!) has barely featured and I have read over half the book. More disturbingly, the reason for Cronkite's grudge is never explored, Worth took him to court, I think, or something. You just feel that Cronkite should just get over it.
The narrative is driven by a pair of private investigators who dont appear to have any work to do but do have a nifty line in excuciating dialogue. Lots of other carboard characters appear and dissapear as events happen to undermine Worth's empire.
I just dont feel why I should care though. I cant side with either 'team' on this one, if anything I want Cronkite to get whats coming for acting like a sulky child. Its like watching a pouting overpaid footballer squaring off against his manager.

Worth and Cronkite should drive the story, not be relagated on the sidelines, it should be a deeply personal grudge where action brings reaction, consequence bring retaliation. That would have made for a gripping, driving story, instead MacLean takes us through a series of tedious events without illiciting sympathy or excitement.
A lot like The Way To Dusty Death, this would have made for a better film than a book.

So far the best MacLean's I have read are
ICE STATION ZEBRA
NIGHT WITHOUT END
GUNS OF NAVARONE
WHERE EAGLES DARE
SOUTH BY JAVA HEAD.
Of MacLean's later work I think the only one I have read so far worth reading is BREAKHEART PASS.
Athabasca next, more oil...


Interchange
Interchange
Price: 7.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Is that concrete all around? Or is it in my head?, 1 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Interchange (Audio CD)
*** CD / DVD ISSUE - THIS IS RELEVANT AS THE DVD CONTAINS A SHORT FILM WHICH THE ALBUM SOUNDTRACKS***

From taking to a trip down the Autobahn with Kraftwerk to the sodium stained subways of Manchester with Joy Division, the 70s was a fertile place for music to explore the urban environment. As the 70s ticked by the places being explored was the mundane: the everyday streets and buildings. Life in its grimy glory, the repetition of life being locked into a 4/4 beat and becoming motorik. The excitement of a city after nightfall painted with shards of wiry guitar in a post punk world of long overcoats. And what separated krautrock and post punk? Punk of course, the music of back alleys and overpasses. Johnny Rotten screaming no future as Richard Hell searched for the meaning of existence.
Meaning JG Ballard was writing his avant garde novels of urban disaster that explored society, psychology and sexuality in a concrete world.

The throbbing, pulsating, shimmering world of Neu! that spoke of the future as a tantalisingly close utopia was twisted by Ballard reading post punks into rendering a visceral dystopia.

Electronic music as a canvas for our environment declined as an art form as during the 80s machines were used to make people dance. The concrete world of punk and post punk gave way to the plastic world of New Pop. The dressing up era of glam returned, except with pop stars dressing as cowboys, not aliens.

There is a motorik renaissance however, bands like Warm Digits and Eat Light Become Lights are resurrecting the dream of Kraftwerk and Neu! and using the advances in technology to make music that possible even better their idols.

Interchange is not only an album but an experimental film based on the archives of construction of the Newcastle Metro in the 1970s, photos, images, diagram and illustrations taken and set to music.
In many ways this is a culmination of many 1970s work.
While it may not sound like a riveting (ba-dum) subject the film is hypnotic and Warm Digits album is a sensational retro album that isn't retro at all as it still sounds biting and relevant.
With swirling, flashing images that recollect the BBC video logo on the early VHS tapes and silhouettes of Newcastle civic amenities take life strobe at you, the film is best watched in the dark. By the end I was transfixed, staring at the screen like Alex in A Clockwork Orange or Harry Palmer at the Ipcress device.
Capturing dreams of the future with the grime of the present Warm Digits have taken old ideas and recast them anew for a future/ retro/ nostalgia / forward facing age.

The album on its own is recommended but you really must get the DVD version as the point of the music is to soundtrack the film.


Nnon
Nnon
Price: 7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars The power of the ancients..., 19 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Nnon (MP3 Download)
Woken Trees are a Danish band. This is their noise.
In some ways this sounds like the post punk revival bands: Interpol, White Lies etc but this is way more darker and brooding, this isn't about trendy hipster fashion, this is going to the source and seeing where the source leads.
Woken Trees sound like Joy Division and The Cure and Hex Enduction era The Fall. The sheer guitar abuse reminds me of the ever brilliant tinnitus inducing A Place To Bury Strangers too.
It sounds like spiders scrambling under the door of your wooden shack. Their thousand hairy scurrying legs reaching for you...
Nnon has a staggeringly paranoid and claustrophobic feel to it. The cover art suits this album. Imagine a golem creeping through the dying roots of a petrified forest searching for a portal to the underworld...
This is a harsh, stark, brutal album. Guitars smash and careen. Drums thumps. Synths shower you with acid rain. There is harsh mechanical industry. The singer has a wonderfully matched croon too that recalls Curtis and Morrison.
Nnon is a driving, relentless beat of an album that gets under your skin, like spiders, like hundreds of spiders gouging their way into your flesh, their insatiable maws drawing blood...


Free Reign II
Free Reign II
Price: 6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Clinic are hiding in the cellar..., 18 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Free Reign II (MP3 Download)
Apparently Free Reign II is the Liverpool bands 7 and 1/2 album. Thanks to internet reseach I believe the story goes they asked Daniel Laopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never (thanks google) to mix the album, then shelved the results and released their own mix. Then released this original version, with all the tracks renamed, the tracklist reversed and a bonus track on the end. I have not heard the original as I went straight to this one as was intrigued by the premise.

Free Reign II is certainly more psychedelic than other Clinic releases and it is certainly a style that suits them. This mix has a LOT going on in the background, the production on the album is incredibly rich and layered. Full of strange noises and effects, this is a throbbing, pulsating, unnerving album. Even by Clinic standards this is a creepy and claustrophobic album. It almost sounds like Clinic's subconscious. That isnt to say Free Reign II is downbeat, it also has a propulsive backbone. Nervous energy is still energy, right?
Ade Blackburn is in great voice, his childlike neurosis never sounded more at home.

A lot of thoughts swirl into my head about what this album sounds like - Throbbing Gristle playing jazz, Echo & The Bunnymen making hits with the Radiophonic Workshop. The Kinks, The Cure, Bowie's Berlin phase, Public Image are all touchstones that suggested themselves, but as always, Clinic are one of the few truly unique bands.

The first 4 tracks are rather slow and eerie, when "Miss You II" arrives at track 4 it is like a breath of fresh air in the wardrobe you're locked in. Free Reign II opens itself up as you journey through it. All of a sudden "Seamless Boogie Woogie. BBC2 10PM" arrives like the star guest at a party: preening, attractive and demanding your attention. It deserves it too, carefully moving its way through the room enticing all under its spell. Surely this Clinic in micro-cosm, urgent and laconic, catchy and insouciant, a mixture of moods and emotions. Dangerous and mischievous. "See Saw II" sees stomping battlefield drums with guitars sharp enough to cut diamond. "Misty II" returns to the slower, brooding manner in which the album opened.
Bonus tracks "Done and Dusted II" is a slice of robotic pop that is so unlike the album it only highlights the difference in Clinic's new style.

Having not heard the original I cannot really compare both albums but the production on this album is excellent and has brought Clinic to a darker but highly intruiging place. A brave and adventurous album well worth checking out by Clinic fans.


Heavenly Choir Of Jet Engines
Heavenly Choir Of Jet Engines
Price: 3.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Promising Debut..., 18 Sep 2013
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Dead Horse One are a new psych band with a hint of shoegaze. This is their debut EP and it rejoices in the name of Heavenly Choir Of Jet Engines.
They are certainly approaching a wall of noise sound but with a jangly lead guitar to act as focus and the vocals are nearly unintelligable.

Alone - The super cool guitar twangs start the EP like Ride playing a spy movie theme. Reminds me of Aussie psych outfit The Morning Under Girls or maybe Dandy Warhols.
He Goes Down - The guitar and vocals here are reminescant of a slower Oasis number.
To Pretend - The vocals are little too stoned here. The guitars make pack some clout though.
Cruel Winter - Clearly saving the best till last! A more sparse arrangement with prominent bass and clearer vocals. There is organ work and cinematic guitars. This has more of a post punk feel.

I would say the best comparison is Dandy Warhols. Maybe the EP isnt quite adventurous enough in terms of songs or production but 3/4 songs are very catchy.
If you are interested in new Psych bands Dead Horse One are worth checking out. This is a good, promising debut release.


Breakheart Pass
Breakheart Pass
by Alistair MacLean
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Join MacLean..., 9 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Breakheart Pass (Paperback)
On board a train in the old west...
Working my way around the works of Alastair MacLean I can happily announce that of his later work this is easily on the better ones.
The historical setting works very well, not only does it suit MacLean's old fashioned style of story telling and dialogue but you get the feeling a change of scenery kept him more interested than his usual WWII and spy haunts. Whereas some of his later books feel tired this has a fresher feel to it.
Another postive is its relatively short length making it a breezy uncomplicated read.
The central character John Deakin is the usual MacLean hero, resourceful, tough and secretive but happily is not quite as indestructible or smug as some of his other heroes. The main female lead also feels less of an anachronism given the setting. On the downside some of the supporting characters I found a little forgettable.
The mystery is standard MacLean fare but again, the setting offsets this.
I also found some of the action scenes a little vaguely described.
Also recommended is the Charles Bronson movie of the film which is an entertaining Sunday afternoon watch.
So, Breakheart Pass doesnt scale the heights of MacLean but if you want to check out a later work this is defintely one you should go for.
So far the best MacLeans I have read are:
ICE STATION ZEBRA
NIGHT WITHOUT END
GUNS OF NAVARONE
WHERE EAGLES DARE
SOUTH BY JAVA HEAD


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