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The Last English Poachers
The Last English Poachers
by Bob and Brian Tovey
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read., 3 Jun. 2015
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I really enjoyed this. Read it in two days! Some fascinating insights into the ways of the country (for an old townie like me). However, equally as interesting is the Tovey critique of modern life which I thought well expressed. Packed full of great little stories, my only regret was that it ended.


Lou Reed: Growing Up in Public
Lou Reed: Growing Up in Public
by Peter Doggett
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 13 Feb. 2015
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I'd read the Beatles book which was great, this wasn't nearly as detailed, objective or analytical.


By S. Alexander Reed and Philip Sandifer - They Might Be Giants' Flood (33 1/3)
By S. Alexander Reed and Philip Sandifer - They Might Be Giants' Flood (33 1/3)
by S. Alexander Reed and Philip Sandifer
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Show., 14 Jan. 2015
There is a good book to be written on Flood by They Might Be Giants. This is not it.

The main mistake is they don't stick to the simple task of talking about the album, instead it's a kind of a meta-analysis of the Giants career, with a misplaced "analysis" of their place in geek culture.

I wanted something on details about the songs, the change in production from Lincoln and the trials and tribulations of recording it and perhaps placing Flood in the context of the Band's career. I'd also have liked some critical analysis. Why wasn't the album a bigger success? Why couldn't they build on the commercial momentum that began with Birdhouse in Your Soul for example? Why do many uber fans prefer Lincoln to Flood?

John Linnell and John Flansburgh are almost peripheral figures in this book as they have to make way for the cultural noodling of the authors. The Giants have a given track by track interview for Rolling Stone of a couple of hundred words or so that is more informative than this big. A missed opportunity.


Rivers of London: 1
Rivers of London: 1
by Ben Aaronovitch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An odd read., 8 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Rivers of London: 1 (Paperback)
A very odd book.

I read it all and enjoyed it in parts but it's very odd. There are some very good ideas here. The Rivers of London appear as personifications and their characters and descriptions are very well done, and the idea of the villain, which I won't spoil, is clever too. Likewise the scientific explanations of the supernatural is diverting. However there are big drawbacks:

1) The first person narrative doesn't work at all. Peter Grant the young working class Black DC with his 3 Cs at A level (Science based) character is that of a middle class middle aged white man with a strong interest history in the London. He doesn't sound remotely real. That Grant's got the sense of humour of a much older man is daft too. There's a bit where Grant starts humming a song by the Blow Monkey's (released the year he was born and hardly the tune of urban youth!) sums up the problem. Aaronovitch basically projects himself onto a hero that just not fits in anyway.

2) The introduction of the supernatural. Our hero acceptance of magic is on a par to perhaps someone who'd only used dial up for the internet to be suddenly confronted with Wi-Fi. It lacks any kind of dramatic awe.

Likewise the learning of magic is also very mundane too. Yes, Susana Clarke pulls this trick off with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Aaronovitch does not.

3) The villain. Is both ill defined and lacking anything like a real motive. Likewise the ending is incredibly bolted on, and incoherent.

4) The mentor. Inspector Nightingale is very under-written. He lacks any rapport with his young charge. Mainly because Grant sounds like he's in his mid 50s too!

5) The endless directions of London; needless descriptions of the most functional kind; the jokes!

Yet, there are some good ideas too. I did enjoy bits. It's just got a lot wrong with it. I didn't give up on it!


Mr Bones: Twenty Stories
Mr Bones: Twenty Stories
by Paul Theroux
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Dem Bones., 6 Dec. 2014
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Excellent.

I've never read Theroux before and when I saw this had come out I thought it would be a good introduction. The short stories are all excellent. Long Story Short of one page slivers is very effective. However, it's I'm the Meat and You're the Knife, Mr Bones, Siamese Nights and Mrs Everest are the ones that I really liked.


My Lunches with Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles
My Lunches with Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles
by Orson Welles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.76

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book of its kind., 29 July 2014
Jaglom, with Welles permission taped his lunches with Orson Welles, and in many ways this was the grand old man's finest performance.

This was probably the book that I read last year that I wish just had never had ended as it was like having lunch with Orson Welles so intimate are the conversations. With his career behind him, he's professionally, emotionally and physically suffering and yet to hear him talk about the films he's made, the films he wants to make but can't and a whole collection of anecdotes about those he's worked with - I won't spoil them - but I enjoyed his take on Oliver, his encounter with Burton in the restaurant and his account of the great Charles Laughton are the highlights. Jaglom enthusiasm for his subject tees Welles up perfectly and you have to envy him these conversations. After the last lunch that was recorded before he died and then the subsequent discussion of the aftermath of his death you feel that you've lost a friend.


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed Dropped Names and I've always liked the work of ..., 29 July 2014
I really enjoyed Dropped Names and I've always liked the work of Frank Langella. For some reviewers this can come across as cruel or petty, but these short essays give a little sliver of what some of the famous names he's worked with are like. Richard Burton does't come across well and Frank's very much in wasted talent view of the thespian. On the other hand his tribute to Raul Julia is really quite touching. Yes, it's bitchy and yes he's indiscreet and yes, these people can't defend themselves (all the subjects are deceased). But it's a lovely little book and well worth reading!


Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties
Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties
by Ian MacDonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabled Foursome, Disappearing Decade, 27 July 2014
This is really the place to start when reading Beatles books. When I first read the book (I read it at Uni - a friend had it, so I flicked through it) you just go through all you favourite songs, but eventually I read it in a linear fashion. The latest version of the book includes more details and titbits, mainly on McCartney via his biographer Myles.

So what did I learn:

1) Lennon and McCartney rarely wrote together after the 1963 but would add bits to each other songs and write the odd genuine collaboration. McCartney often added middle eights and important harmony to Lennon tracks - i.e. the into to Strawberry Fields Forever. As the more talented musician (much of the problem McCartney has with Harrison is that he can write and play much better guitar solos and often does - e.g. the breathtaking solo on Taxman is McCartney) he adds much to Lennon's actual music. Lennon writes in quite horizontal way that lacked harmonic variety. This is what Paul and to be fair George Martin with his arrangements added to Lennon much of the arrangement of I am the Walrus is down to Martin. If you listen to Lennon's solo stuff it's quite plodding without their input. Lennon on the other hand wrote better lyrics and was probably the only check on McCartney's lack of self censorship. McDonald argues that McCartney often struggled with meaning and was in love with harmony for its own sakes. He also loved pre-rock and roll stuff, or granny music as Lennon snobbishly dismissed it as. Unchecked by Lennon's sarcasm you get stuff like Maxwell's Silver Hammer. McCartney's solo stuff is full of sometimes quite bland lyrics. Probably because he was more shy about his private life. The exceptions to this are the Jane Asher inspired songs and some of his songs bemoaning the end of the band.

2. The multi-faceted importance of Lennon. Lennon was the one they all wanted to impress. He had an X factor that McDonald doesn't really get to the bottom of, and I've yet to read anyone who could. As a man he was incredibly complex and for much of his time desperately unhappy with himself and being a Beatle. The drugs, the religion; Yoko Ono; Peace and his later political protest were all part of him desperately searching for his answer. I don't think he ever found it. The Beatles had been that answer for most of his adult life but ultimately Ono replaces them and he divorces the band. Being in the Beatles for Lennon was as much an emotional thing as it was a musical one.

3. Lennon (with Macca support) is the star of the albums up to Rubber Soul and McCartney fingerprints are more over Revolver, Pepper and Abbey Road (with Lennon support). (The White Album and Let it Be are the albums where no one is in charge). Without doubt the drugs softening Lennon's character around 1966-67 form the basis of the psychedelic Lennon and he accepts McCartney's leadership. Once he comes of LSD and meets Ono all that changes. Abbey Road is saved By Harrion's best songs, McCartney's idea of the long medley and the production work of Martin and Emerick. Lennon can barely be bothered to play on songs that he's not written.

4. Some wonderful detail on the production of the albums and the inspiration for musically and lyrically for the songs. Moreover you get a real sense of the 60s and the anti-establishment atmosphere that they all shared. 60s ideas like "random" and seeing drugs as being an artistic way of perceiving reality seem ludicrous now but understandable 50 years on. McDonald does not glamourise these aspects I should add.

5. It's critical of the songs, so the best stuff gets praised and some weak songs are criticised. What gets criticised tends to be filler stuff and George Harrison efforts. You'll find that there'll be odd assessments of songs that you disagree with, he's not keen on For You Blue or Across the Universe, both tunes I love, but mainly I think he's spot on.

6. The Reunion stuff gets short shrift in the revised version. Probably fairly. He does a nice postscript on why the Beatles solo efforts never matched their group efforts. The essay on the Sixties and the Beatles is brilliant though a bit dated (it's conclusions on technology are pre-social media).

McCartney's not a fan of the book mainly because there elements of speculation in the book that he disagrees with. In the main though I'd say that he comes off the best. Lennon's comes across as the more original talent, but he needed the support of McCartney and George Martin to fully articulate it. It becomes clear that technically he was almost clueless about technology and inarticulate about explaining how he wanted the arrangements done, unlike the more literate McCartney. He's also the worst behaved and probably cared the least of the four about the band by about 1968 with Harrison a close second. His accusations against McCartney's leadership are unfair and given the mess he led the Band in by adopting Klein it's pretty clear that he was incapable of the kind of leadership that was needed. Harrison and Starr are both portrayed as very much the second tier Beatles but get their dues.


You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle For The Soul Of The Beatles
You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle For The Soul Of The Beatles
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book. Like most Beatle fans I was familiar ..., 26 July 2014
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A wonderful book. Like most Beatle fans I was familiar with the 60s story and Lennon's emotional decline in the 70s but this gives you the lot. All of their financial troubles stem essentially from a financial naivety that came from living through most of the 1960s in a bubble and a belief that their intuitive touch that worked so well in music would work with their finances. Well, it didn't.

McCartney comes out looking best, he fought to keep the band together and behaved the most logically in terms of wanting a real financial divorce. Harrison is presented as a far more well rounded character and it's clear that his dislike of McCartney and loyalty to Lennon clouded his judgement at terms of going with Klein. Starr comes across as the most down to earth but with a hard edge that we've not really seen before. He, alongside Lennon, seems the most lost after the Beatles break up as he lacks McCartney's musical career or Harrison's wider interests such as religion, film making and gardening.

Finally there is John Lennon. For all the beauty of his songs, he comes across as an horrific man. It would take a utterly frank interview from Paul McCartney (which Doggett assures us won't be forthcoming - Macca hiding, quite sensibly - behind official anecdotes that he trots out when needed) to explain just why he bothered with Lennon post 1970. I think it's fair to say that Paul desperately missed both the friendship and the song writing, but was it worth it? Lennon's treatment of his first wife and son Julian; Ono and May Pang were all pretty awful and his 70s existence at the Dakota is far nearer Goldman's assessment than his folderol about making bread and playing house with Sean. Ono comes across as a parasite that Lennon desperately needed.

The financial woes that they band experience post break up is fascinating as it is exhausting. It's the dark shadow of being a Beatle and must have been very stressful. Likewise the drug and alcohol intake of all concerned (yep - even Wings) seems to have eroded their talent. McCartney's nomadic existence compounded by drugs and without any dissenting voices meant his solo career has been hit and miss, where it had always been hit. Harrison had scaled down his career to part time by the end of the 70s but his cocaine and womanising habit means that he spends a lot of time appearing very cold. Starr's recovery in the 80s and beyond is encouraging and by touring with his All Starr Band he's found some peace. Lennon's 70s are a disaster. His political adventures are a joke, after lecturing the world about being JohnandYoko he drunkenly falls back into being John and you feel his best chance would have been to have settled down with May Pang and started working with McCartney as much for his mental health as anything else. His reunion with Ono leaves him hiding in the Dakota in a state of spiteful depression.


They Might Be Giants' Flood (33 1/3)
They Might Be Giants' Flood (33 1/3)
by S. Alexander Reed and Philip Sandifer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Show, 17 Jan. 2014
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They Might Be Giants are a very good band and Flood a good album, but this book doesn't really cut the mustard. For a start it's not about the album nearly enough. It's a hotch potch history of the band that brackets them as nerd rock, rather than what they are a kind of autistic beatles that have always just done post modern popular song. Nerd rock was always the lazy catch all term for a bored music journalist, it's depressing that they couldn't get anyone to be more ambitious in conceptualising them.

What I was expecting was a chronological book that talked about Flood as a distinct album piece and far more about the impact of the producers and engineers and moving away from the Old indie days. . A linear discussion of the gestation of the album, how and where it was written and recorded a discussion focused on the songs of Flood. What we get is a bewildering kind of meta-analysis that really tries to discuss their entire career and lots of old press interviews. Given that Flood is the one album the average punter knows and the book is supposed to be about Flood this is annoying. I'm an uber fan and own all the albums and it's still annoying. The book is really giving a rushed career overview and in trying to touch on every aspect covers none properly.

The fact that the writers are fans is a problem too as the book lacks a critical edge. The truth is that the Giants flickered from about 1988-1990 as being a vaguely successful band and only really Lincoln is a critical success. I also feel that 1989-90 and the American College scene are not really represented properly. Many of the bands that did well in that period were wholeheartedly rejected in 1991. It wasn't just in the broad field of rock, De La Soul Daisy Age rap was rejected for Gangsta Rap. The Giants nearest musical relatives are not the Residents but Britain's 10CC but many kids who bought Flood in 1990 would have been embarassed by it a year later as they embraced the rebellious (and of course far more traditionally teenage) Nevermind of Nirvana in 1991. 1992's Apollo 18 saw the band almost completely eclipsed by Grunge and they only exist today because of Flansburgh's amazing energy and business brain - they make the real bucks on adverts; children's albums and working for Disney - their adult releases hit the US chart for one week and then drop like a stone. In the popular consciousness they've had only one hit "Birdhouse" and the theme from Macolm in the Middle. A better postscript would be why the Giants couldn't build on Flood. Grunge was only part of the answer, losing the ability to write hit singles was another. The early brilliance of their singles was lost post Birdhouse. Whoever suggested Istanbul at Elektra wants shooting. Likewise their Apollo 18 album lead single was the insipid the Statue got Me High, the dreary Snailshell and Sexxy of their next two albums were all weak singles. By the time they had a true potential hit single (Dr Worm - a firm fave with Triple J Aussie fans) the Giants were approaching 40 and they'd been dropped from a major and they couldn't promote it.

The clowning around (their shows today are still marred by this) was a hinderance, if they'd taken themselves more seriously and been a bit less clever clever they could have pitched for the spot occupied by REM for much of the 90s. Linnell is a more tuneful Stipe for example. The fact that anything remotely intellectual is loathed by musical critics also worked against them. The British backlash in the music press had started in late 1990 and they are and were dismissed by many critics. One also has to add that the lack of conventional love songs on the 90s albums made them hard to market to a teen audience. Very few couples in the world have a They Might be Giants tune as "their song". Ironically they write much more conventional and MOR tunes now, that's you Mr Flansburgh, but they aren't very good. The decision to go to a full band was also a problem too. To make it big the two man show had to end, but when they went full band, they lost that X factor. I'd have like a proper discussion of the role of the third Giant, Mr Bill Krauss. Flood is their first album without him, and good though it is, it's far weaker than their best album: Lincoln.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 17, 2014 5:26 PM BST


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