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Cuban Heel "Neil Schiller" (Liverpool)
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Vexation
Vexation
Price: £4.20

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They deserve to take over the world, 28 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Vexation (Audio CD)
I initially reviewed Get Well Soon's first album for Vine a few years ago and genuinely thought it was one of the most original and enjoyable albums I'd heard in quite a while. I only recently discovered they had another one out and belatedly bought it after listening to the free live EP they have available on their website.

I think this too is a tremendous record. Not every song is a masterpiece, but even the lesser tracks surprise you with the odd section of lovely strings or Enio Morricone brass segments.

Because there are so many influences on display here, and because it kind of sounds unlike anything else, it's hard to tell you what it's like without sounding pretentious. So I'll have to be pretentious then. Seneca's Silence reminds me a bit of Placebo, a vaguely industrial sound to it until the female harmonies kick in like something out of a Wagner opera and blow you away. A Voice in the Louvre is just gorgeous. Acoustic guitar and violins and a sort of 'Das Boot' chorus of male voices. Werner Herzog Gets Shot not only has probably the best song title I've ever come across but also a melody that just soars. Other tracks like 5 Steps/7 Swords have anthemic brass sections that bring to mind cold war national anthems. The whole thing has a kind of Germanic feel to it, but it transcends that and pulls it into the twenty first century with references to Radiohead, Pulp, and Bowie along the way.

Why this band isn't more highly regarded than it is is completely beyond me. Honestly, I think they're producing the best music I've heard in years. They deserve to be massive.


Butterfly House
Butterfly House

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where did the tunes go?, 24 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Butterfly House (Audio CD)
It almost feels like sacrilege giving The Coral an average review but I just can't really get into this album. I thought their last one, Roots & Echoes, was tremendous. So unbelievably good I listened to it to the exclusion of just about every other CD I have for months. So I had enormous expectations for this one. Maybe I was bound to be disappointed, but disappointed I kind of was.

In some ways it's far from being a bad album. On some of their other records there have been songs I really don't like, but they've always been balanced out by tracks that I absolutely love. On this one there is nothing I could say I'd definitely skip over because it irritated me. But at the same time there's nothing outstanding either. It's consistent, but it's consistently just ok.

It has a nice psychedelic sound to it overall, it's quite dreamy in parts. But to me it lacks the killer instinct for a melody they showed on tracks like Dreaming of You, Pass it On, Rebecca You (probably my favourite song of theirs). It's still better than a lot of other stuff out there, but by The Coral's standards I think it's a bit mediocre. Hoping the next one hits the heights again.

EDIT: I came back to edit this review after hearing the acoustic version of this album. I've given that version a better review. Perhaps it's the production on this one that doesn't quite gel for me, because acoustically I can hear some great melodies and songwriting. I guess it's just a matter of personal taste, but for me, I would have just released the acoustic one and left this for bonus tracks on an extended edition of that record instead...


Paul [DVD]
Paul [DVD]
Dvd ~ Simon Pegg
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.62

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I really liked it..., 23 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Paul [DVD] (DVD)
I went to see this at the cinema earlier in the year and watched it again the other night on DVD. Some Pegg and Frost fans have told me they didn't like it but I thought it was pretty good. It's not Shaun of the Dead, but then nothing since that film has been anywhere near as funny in my opinion. It was just so good that everything else is pretty much doomed to pale in comparison.

I remember going to watch Hot Fuzz and being a bit disappointed, but by the time I came to Paul I think I'd gotten the fact that all three are supposed to be very different films. Paul is quite a gentle comedy really. There are no moments of sheer genius that make you laugh yourself stupid, but it's still pretty funny and consistently so. I thought Paul himself had some good lines, and I loved the sci-fi movie references dotted about the film. The dialogue was witty and Pegg and Frost (Pegg especially) play nerds so very well there's little doubt they share more than a little in common with their characters.

I'd recommend as well that you watch the extended version. There's not a lot more, just a couple of extra scenes, but those scenes make the storyline flow better. One bit in particular explains why Paul crashes the car at the beginning and was obviously cut out because the section starts with him swearing and the producers wanted to get the rating down for cinema.

Anyway, yeah, I liked it. As long as you don't expect Shaun of the Dead II you'll probably think it's pretty good.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time [DVD]
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gemma Arterton
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Rubbish, 23 Jun. 2011
I watched this last weekend, figuring it would be a decent enough popcorn movie to sit in front of with a few beers. Hmmm. It was a bit rubbish to be honest. I've been a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal ever since I saw him in Donnie Darko, but even he couldn't rescue this from its service station bargain bin destiny.

Don't get me wrong, the effects weren't bad. The sets were alright. And somewhere there was a passable, if pretty unoriginal, storyline. But the acting was just terrible. Some of the dialogue made me physically cringe - it was trying (and the operative word is trying) to be witty and fell really flat in my opinion. Could just be me as well but I spent the whole film wondering why, if Gyllenhaal was playing an ancient Persian, was he talking in a real ropey ENGLISH accent? It may have been an attempt to try and blend with the rest of the mostly English cast but it just jarred on me. It would have been no less believable if he just spoke like he always does.

Anyway, yeah, it wasn't very good. I gave it two stars because, for some reason unknown to me, I stuck with it to the end. I actually got off the couch twice to switch it off but then sat back down as I realised I had nothing else to watch. On that basis, it couldn't have been truly terrible - I'd rather stare at the wall than watch the worst films I've ever seen. I wouldn't recommend it though. Go and watch something less boring instead.


The Way Back [DVD]
The Way Back [DVD]
Dvd ~ Colin Farrell
Price: £3.75

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, perhaps not quite as good as it could have been, 23 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
I wanted to see this film for a while as I caught a trailer for it and thought it looked great. I finally got to watch it the other day and I enjoyed it, it was pretty good. It was well acted and had an authentic feel to it. Was it as good as I expected? Well, not quite.

I agree with some of the other comments that the story lacked a little bit of a personal element which stopped me being as gripped as I might have been. The beginning was a little bit choppy and if you let your attention wander slightly you might have missed some of the details that made more sense later. It felt like a few scenes were edited to bring the length of the movie down and it didn't flow quite as well as you'd expect. And I wasn't that keen on the ending. Not the actual ending itself, but the montage bit which suggests the main character keeps on walking (metaphorically) until the end of the cold war.

Overall it was a decent film. Good enough, but falling just short of being really good.


What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Energetic, 23 Jun. 2011
Sometimes a bit of energy can offset a lot of other things. I bought this album on a whim really because I liked the cover art and I thought it might be the kind of thing I like. And it is, kind of.

Track one sounds a lot like the Ramones, unapologetically so, and track two is really catchy. After that it gets a little bit samey maybe!?

There's nothing truly inspired or original about it, but like I said, there's a real energy to it. You can hear the enthusiasm of the band and it's kind of infectious. So yeah, I like it. Not excessively, but enough.


DEAD(ish)
DEAD(ish)
Price: £0.00

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm...er...ok..., 13 May 2011
This review is from: DEAD(ish) (Kindle Edition)
I have real mixed feelings about this book. Where do I start? Ok, let's look at the positives. At the heart of DEAD(ish) is a great idea. It's quirky and it's different and it's quite original. I wasn't 100% convinced of the narrative twist where the ghost of Linda finds out what happened to her body, but I was convinced enough. It just about worked in an offbeat, Chuck Palahniuk kind of way. And it's fair to say that Naomi Kramer can write. She has a great style which flows well and has an edge to it. No typos, no awkward turns of phrase. Technically speaking it's written very well.

The big problem, though, is that this book to me doesn't work as a novelette. I don't have a problem with short work, but when something is this short I would expect it to cover only about a third of the narrative this one does, and to be a lot more densely written. What I mean is, DEAD(ish) covers a lot of ground. The framework is there not for a sixty or seventy page short but a fully formed two hundred page novel. Because it whipped through, because the chapters were so short, I was left feeling like this was an outline for a good book rather than being a good book. An early draft of something which, if worked on, could have been great.

Going back to Chuck Palahniuk (who Naomi Kramer reminds me of in some ways) - his novel Fight Club initially started out as a short story. DEAD(ish) reads as I would imagine that short story did: ie. really interesting, but in need of fleshing out. If Kramer had let some of the narrative ideas develop a bit more on the page, lengthened them out a bit, and if she had explored the characters a bit more, let their stream of consciousness build, this could have been really really good. As it is, I think it's just ok. I didn't waste the forty minutes it took me to read, but I came away a bit frustrated that it didn't match its potential. Having said that, the potential is most certainly there and I will still check out other work by the author as I have a feeling the next one, or the one after that, is going to be extremely good indeed.


The Word Gang
The Word Gang
Price: £2.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Should almost come gift wrapped..., 11 May 2011
This review is from: The Word Gang (Kindle Edition)
In his acknowledgements, Mark McKenna calls this, his first novel, his "imperfect labour of love". I can imagine it was a labour of love, but I think he's being a bit harsh with the first bit. Don't get me wrong, I don't think ANY book is perfect, but this one seemed to stand up just fine to me.

The Word Gang is one of those rare things: a novel that is just as suitable and engaging whether you're a teenager, a grandparent, or a hardened cynic in their mid (oh ok, late) thirties as I am. At this moment in time I can only think of three other books I've ever read that proclaimed themselves to be suitable for both young and old and really were: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, To Kill a Mockingbird and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (well, the trilogy makes it five, but you know what I mean). Mark McKenna's book, to my mind, sits quite comfortably in this exclusive club.

There really is something for everyone in this novel. Its appeal is so broad it's quite staggering. McKenna has essentially crafted a narrative that exudes charm: younger readers will love the teenage protagonists and their subversive rebellion against a bullying teacher; for those of us a bit older there is the great characterisation and the nice sideline of obscure words and etymological meanings.

If you're here reading this review, I'm assuming you like books. By extension you probably love words and language. Well, McKenna delivers words in a fresh and interesting way. Ones you've never heard of. Ones you might have forgotten. There's not many people who won't find that of some interest.

Ultimately, this is a gentle read, but there's nothing wrong with that. It seems to me the kind of book that you would buy as a present for someone you know, for anyone you know, that likes to read, and be pretty confident they would enjoy it. I'm certainly glad I read it despite it being the kind of thing I wouldn't usually pick up. Nicely done, very nicely done.


True Grit
True Grit
by Charles Portis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thank god for film adaptations, 28 April 2011
This review is from: True Grit (Paperback)
I picked this book up essentially because of an oversight on my part. I'd gone on an overnighter with work and forgotten to take either a book or my Kindle along. The only place to buy books in about a thirty mile radius was the local supermarket, and whilst I stood there girding myself for some awful celebrity biography, I spotted a single copy of True Grit on its side on the bottom shelf. I was aware of the John Wayne film, of course, and I knew the Cohens had recently remade it. What I didn't know was that the source material for both movies was a novel - and a novel held in some quarters as a bit of classic no less. I had a moment's hesitation as the edition on offer had a film cast cover (which I hate), but ever the one for compromise I ended up taking it to the checkout.

This was, indeed, a great little book. The characterisation of Mattie absolutely shines in it. It probably is one of THE great literary representations of a wilful (and precocious) teenage girl. The narrative is taut and gripping in a way that belies its simplicity. And Portis gets the atmosphere of the West absolutely spot on in my opinion, it feels authentic without resorting to out and out Western genre cliches. I loved the way he played with the notion of morality - Cogburn as the marshall whose actions provoke criticism because he bends the rules of law, his past as a Confederate soldier and outlaw himself, and his ultimate slide back into that sort of life when he is forced to turn his badge in. He isn't a hero, he isn't exactly an anti-hero, he is something else and we see him in the narrative in a fleeting moment of his rather more complex life.

I did think the novel ended a bit abruptly, with the sudden flash forward to Mattie's older years and the brief summary of what happened to Cogburn in the twenty five years since the trip into Indian territory. But, on reflection, I can't think how else the author would have handled the ending. Overall it was a good, solid, engaging read and one I'm glad I stumbled upon.


Loisaida -- A New York Story
Loisaida -- A New York Story
Price: £0.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cult classic in the making, 15 April 2011
In a moment, I'm going to say a couple of things about this book that you may or may not believe. It doesn't matter. I'm going to say them anyway because I'm convinced they are true. We'll get to that though...

I initially bought this book as a present for someone else. I had no intention of reading it because I thought it was simply a bargain price thriller. Having poked around the Amazon forums for a few months, however, I started to see references to Loisaida which made me think that, actually, there was more to the book than I'd initially assumed. So eventually I gave it go. I read the first couple of chapters and thought I'd maybe misjudged as it came across as a well written, but rather straightforward crime story. However, I then hit chapter three and suddenly it opened out into this unbelievable range of voices, a cast of characters so authentic and distinct from each other that it is hard to believe they were all conceived and written by the same person. There are artisans, junkies, ex-cons, and amidst them all a TV actor trying to become a journalist and searching for his breakthrough story on the lower East side.

There are a lot of characters and you will have to make some effort in keeping up, but believe me when I say it's worth that effort. In the hands of a lesser writer the different voices would have been in danger of becoming a cacophony, but Marion Stein manages to make them harmonise, with narrative overlaps that never leave you wondering what's going on. The New York on display here is reminiscent of that of Arthur Nersesian, Jay McInerney, Hubert Selby Jr. It's rich and evocative and gripping.

Ok, here's my bombshell. I mentioned a couple of authors above. On the evidence of this book, I think Marion Stein is certainly as good as, if not better, than all of them. I know that's a big claim when you consider I mentioned Hubert Selby, but I stand by it. All I can say is I enjoyed this book more than 'Last Exit to Brooklyn', I enjoyed it more than 'Song of the Silent Snow'. There was a vibrancy to the characters in this novel that, in my opinion, Selby never quite matches. I would go so far as to say that if this book had been written twenty years ago, it would now be talked of as a cult classic. It is truly, truly stunning. As I said, you might not believe me, in which case I suggest you try the book and then come back and attempt to tell me why I'm wrong. I'm willing to bet you won't convince me. A tremendous piece of work.


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