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1Q84: Books 1, 2 and 3
1Q84: Books 1, 2 and 3
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, lyrical and affecting... but loooong., 3 Jan. 2014
This review is from: 1Q84: Books 1, 2 and 3 (Paperback)
At its heart 1Q84 is a love story of disaffection and belonging. Aomame and Tengo, outsiders both, find themselves in a strange other world of two moons and psychotic 'Little People' that always seems on the verge of coalescing into a new reality. The two lovers must find each other and a way to save themselves and their real world before they are lost in this new world.

1Q84 is filled with an ethereal atmosphere and Murakami's usual weird brilliance, it is very readable but is also over long and constrained by slow plotting and introspective monologuing. What moments there are of dramatic uncertainty never seem to reach a climax. That said it is also affecting and wonderfully descriptive and, like a lot of Murakami's work, it leaves a vivid after image that is perhaps more enjoyable than actually reading the three books in the first place.

annihilation LP
annihilation LP

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, heads down, thrash metal., 4 Sept. 2012
This review is from: annihilation LP (Vinyl)
Sometimes you cannot judge music objectively. Indeed, objectivity, when it comes to something you like, goes out the window. It is perfectly possible to hold the dual thoughts: First, that there is music which is categorically the best: you can stand back and judge it and say:"Yes, this is the best!" And secondly, that although X is the best, I still prefer Y.

Thus it is with Kublai Khan.

This is primal thrash from the golden era of 1987 and on no level can it claim to be the best. The production is rough, the guitars grind and wail; solos played so fast the whole merges into a screeching mess; vocals growled and mixed low in the murk. Album cover, band name and titles are straight from 'Thrash Metal 101'. However you want to cut it, Kublai Khan will never challenge the Megadeths and Slayers of this world.

But Annihilation is without doubt my favourite thrash album and the one I come back to time and again. The primal thrash is an open invitation to headbang, the screeching solos beg to be played on air guitar, the bludgeoning whole has arms flailing at imaginary drums, the rhythm is tight, choppy and infectious, and the vocals mixed deep in the rough production are goading you to roar along.

Anyone familiar with the ripe tape trading scene of the early eighties will get exactly why Kublai Khan are so wonderful. The rawness of early Metallica tapes, the home production, the joy from an artist that comes through the speakers. Metal lost something with the cynicism behind Metallica's Black album, as much as glam lost with the arrival of grunge. For a time, you either went commercial or you went extreme.

But back in the day you could be four guys, a gang against the world, playing fast and having fun. For all the wonderful things thrash metal became after, it was never more primal or perfect than here.
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The Breach
The Breach
by Patrick Lee
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Whisper it... Blockbuster!, 13 Aug. 2012
This review is from: The Breach (Mass Market Paperback)
The Breach is a rip in air and things are coming thru it from Somewhere Else. Travis Chase is an ex-cop with a history who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time; or does he?

Sinister organisations, boobytrap, gunfights, cold-blooded villains, conspiracies and The End Of The World collide in Patrick Lee's ridiculously over the top, thoroughly entertaining, fast paced and very easy to read debut.

Think Bourne or Wilbur Smith utterly pared to the bone without any verbose fluff. Yes, it does read almost like a film script, everything here is quite simply begging for a Paul Verhoeven make over, but it entertains like crazy and leaves me wanting more.

The Dark Knight Rises (DVD) [2012]
The Dark Knight Rises (DVD) [2012]
Dvd ~ Christian Bale
Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £3.74

1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Kapow! than Cor, wow!, 31 July 2012
What a mess. A thoroughly entertaining, ridiculously over the top, with plotting you could fly a bat through mess. A convoluted, unstructured, fanciful and even at 2 hours 40+ minutes, incomplete mess.

That said I love it! What DKRises lacks in the relative realism of the first two it makes up for in Kapow!

If the prison doesn't seem particularly deep and dark and Wayne's recovery seems a little too miraculous and Bain's marshal law seems predictably easy to come by, to live with and predictably easy to topple, Dark Knight Rises slaps you in the face with some throwaway humour and gleefully piles on the coincidences, baddies and death defying escapes as camp as anything from the Adam West series. Significantly, straight edged new rookie cop is told "You're a detective now; you're not allowed to believe in coincidences." Except for those on every page of the script, of course...

Anne Hathaway shoots to the top of my Sheldon-o-meter as the best of Batman's cat-burglars. Christian Bales' performance seems phoned in from The Machinist, for an actor of his calibre and considering the journey Nolan's Batman has taken, he's given very little actual acting to do. Bain is successfully intimidating but the mask does reduce him somewhat to comic book villain whereas Ledgers Joker, despite the face paint, was scarily real.

And finally, where the first two films were true in a great many ways to the revamped vision of Batman as a real hero in a real world torn between justice and revenge, love and duty, in DKRises we're given a CGI'd fairy tale full of crammed in flashbacks, wide scope storytelling, and over reaching set pieces that dissolve any sense of atmosphere, threat and danger and continuity with the previous two movies.

So Batman Begins was great, The Dark Knight was a classic, DKRises is... Well, truly, there is a lot here that is risible and poorly done but suffice to say Nolan has finished off his trilogy with a bang: A big, loud, vacuous bang... Michael Bay would be proud...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2012 11:22 AM BST

Puressence: Sharpen Up The Knives
Puressence: Sharpen Up The Knives
Offered by TM Stores
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Majestic, haunting, peerless indie rock., 4 July 2012
Ideally, of course, you should have all the original albums. After buying this taster chances are you soon will have. 15 tracks simply doesn't do justice to one of the best Indie Rock bands of recent times.

But this is a good place for the curious to start.

Puressence fuse U2 emotion to Coldplay nous, sharpen it up like Snow Patrol and more than occasionally reach Radiohead heights of Rock bliss. If that makes them seem like a band made up of components or imitators of a certain style, please also note they rise above all the aforementioned through lead singer James Mudriczki's powerful and shattering tremelo. He is a powerhouse of strangulated beauty and precision, of heart wrenching emotion and soaring despair. That voice, coupled with the deep melancholy and spiky rage that populates the music, puts Puressence into a category of sensitive, introspective, moody and epic Rock that is very exclusive indeed.

Superlatives abound when describing them, as do genuine feelings of exasperation. Puressence are music's best kept secret; the one band that truly fulfils the hype and deserves the break. Try it.

Track Listing

1. This Feeling
2. Standing in Your Shadow
3. All I Want
4. It Doesn't Matter Anymore
5. How Does It Feel?
6. She's Gotten Over You
7. Raise Me to the Ground
8. Walking Dead
9. Street Lights
10. I Suppose
11. Sharpen Up the Knives
12. Never Be the Same Again
13. India
14. Our Number's Oracle
15. Che (Piano/vocal version)
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2015 1:08 AM BST

Present: A Night of Queen
Present: A Night of Queen
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars There can be only one..., 19 Jun. 2012
Recorded live in December 2010, this sees The Protomen turn in a rousing set of some of the best known Queen songs and, at times it seems, almost channeling Freddie Mercury.

If the songs themselves are pretty faithful renditions, no avant-garde arrangements or autreche style reimaginings here, The Protomen imbue them with a spirit and joy that is wholly infectious and can't but put a smile on your face. It really is a joy to here some of these songs performed authentically in a live setting.

If Brian May and Roger Taylor were ever looking for an "Australian Pink Floyd" official cover band then "The Nashville Queen" (!!!) would do their memory proud. It does have to be said, though, as a Protoman fan the performance of Due Vendetta steals the show!

The Secret Book of Sacred Things
The Secret Book of Sacred Things
by Torsten Krol
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Simplistic and flawed but intriguing., 26 Mar. 2012
I hate this book. I hate it for many reasons, most of all because I like it and yet still think it's so bad. I could have given it two stars as easily as three or four.

Written in diary format by Rory, a young Sister at the Church of Selene, it tells of the Church and the village in the valley it serves. The story is set a grandfather's grandfather's, grandfather's age into the future (possibly there is another grandfather in there) after the Earth has been hit by a devastating meteor impact. The meteor was deflected from a direct collision by the moon and in the aftermath, in one small valley High Sister Winona sets up the Church of Selene.

Now, many years later, the Sisters worship and pray to Selene, the Moon, in thanks for protecting them and as a way to influence the Moon's current path as she traverses a new oval elliptic around the planet. Earth itself is also tipping, thrown off its axis by the meteor. In the is new world The Sisters of Selene promote a world run by women, believing the old world of man was destroyed because it was corrupt, destructive and violent.

Unfortunately as a story of future-history things just don't work for me. In a society run by women they leave all their trading to the men; men who are universally boorish, brutish and drunken. Now, the power in any society comes from controlling the things people want and need so to leave such an important role outside the Church is downright stupidity. Also, as a Church that specifically founded this valley community the Sisters are extremely detached from Village life. It is a poorly run Church that, after a couple hundred years existence, hasn't got its fingers into every part of the daily community life that very Church created.

A further incongruity comes later in the story as the Church flounders: That the Sisters did not see this coming, that they had no protection, physical or structural, and that they so quickly capitulate (and that the village turns to darkness so quickly) is just nonsense.

Stories of a future where all common-sense knowledge has seemingly been forgotten, where a Church can be built up from a shopping list, or the sun and moon are revered once again as Gods, or an old world that must have been sinful and wicked (yet possessed the knowledge to produce glass and paper and marvellously useful technology): I hate them. They are unconvincing, irrational and, by extrapolating usually one or two ideas and stretching them to a conclusion, usually marginal. Thus the Church of Selene can only exist in this one small valley, with only boorish and dumb males, is blind to its own decline and ultimately both no great loss to civilisation and no great basis for a novel.

That said I did enjoy The Secret Book of Sacred Things. It is imaginative, if not fantastical; Rory writes in short easy to read chapters and is a well conceived, self-important character. The ending is ever-so slightly naff but I did enjoy the turn of the season and the build up to it and the book does have its moments: at the very least I'll never sing 'Row, row, row your boat' with quite the same feeling!

While I may never read it again, I'm glad I did read it once at least: an adequate stop-gap for light fantasy or future-history fiction fans.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2012 12:59 PM BST

Behemoth: Silverhair, Long Tusk, Icebones: Mammoth, Long Tusk, Icebones (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Behemoth: Silverhair, Long Tusk, Icebones: Mammoth, Long Tusk, Icebones (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Stephen Baxter
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Mammoth book of mammoth!, 21 Mar. 2012
Behemoth is Baxter's Mammoth trilogy Silverhair, Longtusk and Icebones collected together. Respectively, it follows the story of the last mammoths, the greatest mammoth and finally [...Pigs in space] mammooooooooths on Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaars! But, don't worry, Behemoth is very readable and not really that far fetched.

In Silverhair, a paltry group of mammoths find themselves pushed further and further into the inhospitable Northern icecap by marauding humans. This is the last family of mammoths and Baxter makes you feel their isolation and loss, and there is no little horror in seeing human actions from the point of view of the mammoths. This is the only slightly disconcerting issue I have with Behemoth. The anthropomorphic nature of the mammoth's behaviour, probably necessary for telling Baxter's story, just seems at odds with the animals in nature. I have no doubt of their ability to communicate and emote but these mammoths are opposable thumbs away from Euclidian mathematics and Pyramids!

In Longtusk, the hero of the mammoth's own cycle of creation is given centre stage. We follow the legendary mammoth, spoken of with reverence in the cycle, from young bull to saviour of the species. This story is set some 15,000 years ago just before the coming ice age and both the lives of the mammoths and the people they interact with are excellently presented. It is also nice to see a representation of ancient man that doesn't succumb to block-headed stereotypes, both Sapiens and Neanderthals come off as well rounded species and the progress and expansion of the Sapiens is frighteningly reminiscent of modern mans viral like spread over the Earth.

In Icebones, mankind has moved to and evacuated from Mars. We're not quite sure why man has departed and left behind a partially terraformed planet but the huge mammoths also left behind are like lost souls cast adrift. These are genetically engineered breeds, born without any natural instincts and solely reliant on their human masters for everything. Only Icebones, calf of the matriarch Silverhair from the first book remembers the nature of what mammoths are supposed to be. This is the story of how she leads a disparate group of tame and naive mammoths to better pastures, forging them into a herd and a family. Unfortunately, despite a well realised alien landscape, the story suffers for being a very long trek, with the petulant immature mammoths like squabbling kids in the backseat asking "Are we there yet?" every two minutes.

Overall I preferred the story of Longtusk, Silverhair is marginally less believable and Icebones simply drags too often. Longtusk is considerably more dynamic and full of adventure. That said all three books are enjoyable. Behemoth is a very easy read and Baxter conjures believable characters and environments. At the end I was left with a definite sadness that these creatures, such recent extinctions, are gone forever.

Big F
Big F
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £18.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Takes my breath away, 20 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Big F (Audio CD)
I've always thought of both Grunge and Stoner Rock as complimentary genres: the same type of working class bands ploughing the same furrows but just on different drugs; inner city loneliness versus wide open space wilderness.

Grunge was the Doom of bands like Black Sabbath filtered through American college Indie and you can draw a linear path from them to the Pixies through to Soundgarden et al. Stoner Rock follows something of a similar path but has a basis more accurately rooted in the Southern Blues of Lynyrd Skynyrd, filtering through the American Doom Rock of St. Vitus to bands like Monster Magnet and Goatsnake.

3 piece The Big F fall somewhere between these two genres on their self-titled debut album: a bluesy, dirty grunge band that are a loud, fizzing squall of Stoner energy. The guitars buzz and writhe; riffs like swarms of bees and solos sharp and stinging. There is a distinct twang to the vocal lending them a Southern warmth that reeks of shootin', fishin' and too much whiskey and a thick production that creates a fug of revelry. They really are so far ahead of the curve on this release too, adding a slight jazz inflection or Blues vibe whilst still rocking out like the possessed.

Where the classic "Take my breath away" soundtracked the worst schmaltz of 80's pop culture, The Big F (2 of the 3 were in Berlin) are as incendiary as the famous car advert it also soundtracked. They are a loud and vital band with an energy as far removed from the pop romanticism of Berlin as you could imagine. This is the Stooges on overdrive. This album has a sweaty live feel about it, the claustrophobic press of a tiny club and a band clawing back all their credibility and more.

Fans of the dirty Grunge of Gruntruck or Tad and the relentless macho Stoner of Scissorfight will find plenty to enjoy in this overlooked classic. Second album 'Is' (and EP 'Patience Peregrine') is equally essential but cleaner sounding than the bluesy Stoner/Grunge here.
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Don't Get Mad...Get Even (UK Import)
Don't Get Mad...Get Even (UK Import)
Offered by horizons-usa
Price: £25.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Hard Rock, 20 Mar. 2012
'Don't Get Mad, Get Even' is a great Rock album from the 1980s and Victory are rockers pure and simple, completely without artifice: keyboard free and full of cliché. That doesn't mean Victory are just another dumb rock band but rather Victory are a Rock band with a capital R! They are not prog, math, blues or glam, just Hard Rock; playing for fun without sentimentality and with an eye on the power chord and keeping things simple.

And Victory are traditional, 'Don't Get Mad...' follows the verse-chorus-verse formula perfectly; breaks, pre-choruses, bridges and leads are all exactly where they should be. When Victory have a song called 'Hit and Run' you can guarantee the line "Hit and run" will be a great big part of the chorus. If the first line to their rhyming couplet ends with 'heart', they'll follow it with a line ending in 'start'. There is nothing on here that's going to exercise your brain and nothing greatly original but all the pieces fit together perfectly and it works.

Nostalgia does play a part here. 'Don't Get Mad...' was released in 1987, Victory's second, and depending upon your point of view lines like "Tipper says I can't, well I say I can" will tell you all you need to know. This was still the age that songs like 'Turn it up' and 'Are you ready' played without any sense of irony to the ready made gang-mentality of rock fans. And they have a song called 'Arsonist of the Heart'! No other era could have produced that! ^^

Finally, 'Don't Get Mad...' is ridiculously catchy. Songs like 'Not me', 'Seven Days...', 'Check's in the Mail' and 'Sneaking Out' are hard rockers with big choruses made for stadia sing-a-longs and fist pumping head-bangs. Charlie Huhn's American-as-apple-pie Rock voice is the sugar-coating on the Rock Hard German crunch.

Simply put, this is a great Hard Rock album.

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