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Reviews Written by
Cuban Heel "Neil Schiller" (Liverpool)

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Moneyball [DVD] [2011]
Moneyball [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Price: £4.84

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality, understated film, 9 April 2012
This review is from: Moneyball [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
I absolutely loved this movie. I thought the acting was superb, the script tight and realistic, and the direction spot on. I don't know an awful lot about baseball, but in all honesty you really don't have to. I can't quite understand the other reviews saying you have to be a baseball fan to really get it - you don't.

Essentially, it's about a sports manager who works for a small time team realising he can't compete with the bigger teams on the same terms. (A lot of parallels there for different sports). So he sets out to find a new approach. You go through a building tension as it initially fails to work, and you follow him and his number crunching protege as they start to turn it around. It isn't a slow film, but it is an understated one. The performances in it are, in my opinion, fantastic. The best Pitt has been since Fight Club.

Not to give the ending away, but it was great. Obviously, being based on a true story helped there as it ended as the real life events ended. But that's what I liked most about it - it dealt with small victories, with standing by your convictions, with seeing things through and trying to shake things up a bit whatever the cost. For me, that made it a proper adult drama, the like of which I haven't seen in far too long. It deserved its Oscar nominations (very few films do these days it seems) and restored my faith in the film industry a bit. Brilliant film. Reminded me a little bit of The Social Network (although I think it was better than that), and The Insider - so may be for you if you're a fan of those films.

Blues Funeral
Blues Funeral
Price: £8.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely love it - his best stuff yet, 9 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Blues Funeral (Audio CD)
I was a bit surprised when I first listened to this album. It's unmistakably a Mark Lanegan record - the gothic gospel/blues influences are all in place. But there are a few other ideas creeping in here and there and they add to the mix in a big way.

For me, the highlights come in the middle. 'St Louis Elegy' is a haunting piece of dark Americana, set over a nice low key electronic beat. 'Riot in my House' has some brilliant churning, and squealing, guitar work. 'Quiver Syndrome' just has a driving energy that is impossible to resist.

That said though, these tracks are for me just the best of the best. The whole album is actually pretty great. Lanegan's voice is a constant, but here and there the music reminded me of Goldfrapp, Moby(!?), or even The Dandy Warhols (but in a good way). It's a collection of brilliant songs ultimately, but the variety helps give it an edge over his other stuff. Definitely, definitely recommended. A definite contender for album of the year.

The Baron EP
The Baron EP

5.0 out of 5 stars Assured Debut, 26 Jan. 2012
This review is from: The Baron EP (MP3 Download)
I stumbled across this by accident and think it's a great little EP. I saw some comparisons somewhere to Nick Cave and Johnny Cash. And I can see that, kind of, but to me it sounds more like Mark Lanegan and The Gutter Twins. There is a gothic gospel/blues feel to it, and Commons has a brilliant rasping voice.

My only quibble would be that at times it almost - not quite, but almost - sounds a little overproduced. I mean, it isn't overproduced, it works just fine. But for me, if it was just a little rougher around the edges that would suit the voice more and would make it an even better record. That's just splitting hairs though. Ultimately it's a great debut from someone I'll need to keep an eye out for in future. Hopefully it does well, although I must admit I'm surprised to be the first person leaving a review here...

Big Tobacco
Big Tobacco
Offered by Hausmusik
Price: £8.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Once or twice to kill my pain, and once to bring it back again..., 17 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Big Tobacco (Audio CD)
The first line of the first song sums this album up for me. It's a masterclass in bittersweet songwriting, and possibly Joe Pernice's best record. A bit more stripped back than the harmony laden production of The Pernice Brothers or Chappaquiddick Skyline. But no less infectious.

I discovered this guy by accident while messing about on iTunes, and having heard quite a bit of his music now I've been left wondering why he isn't more of a household name. You can, I guess, throw about the alt-country or Americana tags but his music kind of transcends that. Lovely vintage pop harmonies and melodies, solid musicianship and well crafted songs.

The highlight here for me is 'Bum Leg'. The guitar part has a great gothic alt-country feel to it that reminds me of Wim Wenders films, small town dustbowl America. But for me, it's the lyrics that lift it to something else. Very understated telling of a violent encounter under a bridge. Very gritty and compelling. Clever songwriting too - at one point he gets quite a wordy section to fit the melody and sound like it rhymes even though it doesn't. "Could you walk a little slower/my legs don't work so good in this cold weather". Brilliant stuff.

What does all this rambling tell you about the record? Well, that it's a good one. Joe Pernice should be a bigger star than he is. Buy it, I think you'll like it.

Butterfly House (Acoustic Version)
Butterfly House (Acoustic Version)
Price: £10.30

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 16 Jan. 2012
This might sound a little strange, but I originally bought the electric version of this album and didn't like it much. It was probably my least favourite of their records. I couldn't hear the killer melodies and harmonies I'd come to expect from The Coral. And then I hear this version. Same songs, very similar arrangements, and I love it. Maybe the songwriting got a little lost in the mix for me before. Maybe I found the production a bit distracting, I don't know. Here, stripped back, the quality comes shining through.

It will probably be a matter of taste as to whether you prefer the electric or acoustic versions of Butterfly House. For me, this is far superior. I would have released the album this way and stuck the electric versions out as bonus material for die hard fans. But then, that's just me - what do I know?

Ultimately, this is just a great record. Buy it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 5, 2012 11:12 PM GMT

Last of the Country Gentlemen
Last of the Country Gentlemen
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £6.63

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Left me speechless, 12 Jan. 2012
There's good music, there's great music, and of course there's rubbish music. Every once in a while I come across a record that is something else entirely. And this is one of those records. On the first listen it literally left me speechless. I couldn't explain to my other half what I liked about it, I just knew it was something a bit special. I haven't felt that way since the first time I heard 'Grace' by Jeff Buckley.

This is not an easy listen. It is probably one of the most depressing albums I've ever heard. But there is just something incredibly compelling about it. It's highly original, but that's not what grabs you: it's the honesty, the pain, the sheer intensity of the emotion packed into it.

At times, ironically, there does seem to be the odd musical nod to Jeff Buckley. There are some occasional Nick Cave-esque lyrics about redemption. But apart from that, it's not really quite like anything I've heard before. Looking at the reviews here I'm not overly surprised that it has split opinion somewhat. Because it is a bold and uncompromising album. It won't be to everyone's taste. Bouncy, sing-a-long pop music it certainly isn't. Posturing, riff-laden rock music it certainly isn't. But if, like me, you think there should be music out there that pushes the boundaries a little bit, that delivers something new and worthy of your attention, then this has to be it. I disagree that it's tuneless. The melodies are subtle and are broken up, cleverly in my opinion, by the more wordy sections of the lyrics. At times the melodies do disappear and are replaced by little disembodied guitar phrases, which I think are beautiful. It's a clever and unique way of presenting music. And it fits well with the highly personal, whispering confessional approach of Pearson's singing.

I suspect this will be one of those records that gets looked back on as a template for all manner of things that follow it. A future classic that is spoken of as being a bit ahead of its time. Seriously, I do believe it's that good. It's not often I agree with music critics, but on this occasion they've got it right. Wow, what a way to start 2012 for my music collection.

A Stich In Time
A Stich In Time
Price: £7.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 8 Nov. 2011
This review is from: A Stich In Time (Audio CD)
I love this record. I have other stuff by Greg Dulli, Mark Lanegan, The Gutter Twins, Afghan Whigs, Screaming Trees etc. But this one ranks right up there with the best of their work in my opinion. It may well be a companion piece to the 'Powder Burns' album - is it sacrilege to suggest it's actually better?

There aren't a lot of songs on here, it is an EP after all, but the quality of them I think is exceptional. I really like track 1 'Live With Me' which is a blues growl that reminds me a bit of Nick Cave, a bit of Johnny Cash. And I love track 2 'Sublime' which is just infectious with its sexy/sleazy rhythm. The best of the bunch, though, is 'They Ride' - best song I've heard in ages. Just love it. So atmospheric. Every time I listen to it, it gets stuck in my head for days.

I just think it's great. The sound Dulli puts across here is a little different from the albums I guess, not massively different but a little bit. Maybe that's why I like it so much. Quite often bands put stuff out on EPs or single b-sides that do play about with ideas more than the main body of their work. And quite often, I find that stuff really interesting. I'd definitely recommend this one. Superb.

Barton Hollow
Barton Hollow

4.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous, 1 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Barton Hollow (Audio CD)
I was recommended this record by a friend and after sampling a few bits of it on iTunes bought it straight away. It's not the genre of music I usually listen to in all honesty, but the vocal harmonies on it are absolutely outstanding. I can't remember ever hearing a couple of voices that go so well together before. It's just a gorgeous sound.

My favourite tracks are probably '20 Years', 'Barton Hollow' and 'C'est La Mort'. The title track in particular really grabbed me because it's a bit more bluesy, which is probably where my own personal taste lies.

I guess The Civil Wars are a sort of alt-country, bluegrass type of band. If you're a big fan of that kind of music, you will undoubtedly LOVE this record. For me, some of the melodies verge on being a bit twee, but I fully accept that this is because of my taste in music and not a reflection on the quality of the material here. But even with that in mind, I still think it's worth 4 stars, so that should tell you how good it truly is...

Only in Dreams
Only in Dreams
Price: £5.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Album, 3 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Only in Dreams (Audio CD)
I stumbled across this when someone I know on Facebook recommended it. What a great album. Tuneful and energetic, some lovely vintage harmonies and guitar sounds.

Overall it sounds to me a bit like Mazzy Star would if Chrissie Hynde had joined their line up. Lots of fuzzy, dreamy melodies but with a tighter song structure that reminds me of The Pretenders for some reason. They definitely draw on a sort of American, rock & roll/garage band tradition. But the tracks are so catchy it's much much better than the variable dirge you sometimes get from that sort of thing.

So yeah, ten great tracks, and a definite recommendation for anyone looking for something original and well crafted.

Monsters [DVD] [2010]
Monsters [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Whitney Able
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.50

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what this film was supposed to be..., 16 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Monsters [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
No, I'm completely stumped. Marketed as an alien invasion film, but shot as a character study of two people thrown together with the aliens merely providing context for the story. Honestly though, I don't think it really worked that well as either.

I stuck it on, and before too long realised it wasn't going to be Battle: Los Angeles. And I was fine with that. It was well filmed and a little bit arty in places. But the characters weren't very well rounded, which is kind of critical for the type of character led film I think they were trying to make. Yes, there was some hamfisted backstory about the bloke having a son and the woman being engaged but unwilling to speak to her fiance. But it didn't feel all that convincing. And it was hard to empathise with them at all.

The biggest problem I had was this: the film is 90 minutes long. The first half hour is essentially pretty slow and shows the characters meeting and getting to the border of the infected zone with a night out in Mexico along the way. Then they start their journey proper, which is again handled at quite a slow pace. Lots of shots of them sleeping on a boat, wandering about in ravaged environments. There is one alien attack which happens in darkness and they hear a few noises and see some funghi on a tree. And then we're almost at the end of the film. One of them says to the other "it'll be weird being back home after all we've been through". It didn't feel like they'd really been through much at all. There were so many long arty bits about nothing that any moments of action came and went fleetingly and as a consequence there was no build up of tension at all for me. It all seemed a bit easy and uneventful, and the hardships they were talking about, well, I couldn't really remember seeing them.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't awful. I've seen much much worse. But it was far from great. Three stars for the interesting way it was filmed, and for the intention - although I think the filmmakers fell way short of what their ambitions were.

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