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Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Price: £33.00

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece revisited, 3 Feb 2010
First of all, this is not the edition for you if you've never heard the album. It's absolutely necessary to consume the original LP in it's 70-minute, stand-alone form. This will be just too much for the uninitiated, and since Jason Pierce likes his drug references, I'll risk a bad pun and say you'd overdose on this.

For those of us that have heard the original (and listened to it countless times over the last 13 years), some notes on the deluxe box set:

The packaging, while a nice nod to the original pill box, also misses the point of the original in that it no longer looks like a box of pills. The colour and card stock used are wrong. Regardless, it's nice to see such care and attention being lavished upon this box set.

The track timings are different. Mainly because the revised first track is longer than the one originally issued in 1997. The final track has been trimmed since it had extra silence at the end to push the running time to exactly 70 minutes.

As far as I can tell, apart from the original version of the title track now being present, the album has been untouched. No remastering, no volume boosting. Nothing. All is as it should be.

Jason doesn't believe in ripping off his fans. When the Electricity single came out in '97 over two discs he said it was at the record company's insistence: he had intended it to form a live 'mini-album,' but they wouldn't capitulate.

In the same way, while the extra two disc here may look complete, they are not. Missing are early versions of Don't Go and Stay With Me, the instrumental versions of Broken Heart and Cool Waves, the radio edits of Electricity and I Think I'm In Love, and the Abbey Road EP versions of Come Together and Broken Heart (although those last two aren't strictly anything to do with the album, they were recorded later).

All of those tracks, however, are on The Complete Works Vol. 2, so credit is due to Mr Pierce for not padding this out to four discs and bumping the price further. The only thing truly missing is the originally-issued title track. I guess they're presuming you already own the original edition, and if you don't why would you want a butchered version of the song, re-recorded in haste due to clearance issues? I, however, feel that a box full of alternate version should have included this.

Finally, on to the alternate versions which are present. At first glance, this appears to be the same as any other box set of sessions, and I had deja vu when I looked at the track listing as this is how many Miles Davis 'Complete <whatever> Sessions' appeared: take after take of the same track.

No previous reviewers have mentioned this, but it appears the Spaceman realised that wasn't enough: instead, several of the sequences have been made into suites of sorts. Several versions of the title track are cross-faded into one another, forming an extended version which highlights individual parts of the song.

In the case of I Think I'm In Love, we can hear Jason giving instructions to the choir as the demo ends, and we break into the gospel session as if the song were intended to play out this way. Other songs are split into tracks to highlight sections, despite the fact they appear to be one long take: Cop Shoot Cop is a case in point.

What this means is that this extended set is not just for the completists, and it makes a compelling listening experience in itself. For those of us that have heard this music over the course of more than a decade, it's a great way to revisit one of the recorded highlights of British music of the 1990's.

Highly recommended to fans of the original, and it is worth the high price.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2010 4:57 PM BST


The Red House Mystery
The Red House Mystery
by A. A. Milne
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable mystery - if only he had written more!, 18 Dec 2008
This review is from: The Red House Mystery (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A A Milne the mystery writer was a surprise to me - we all know him for the bear who loves honey. This novel predates Christopher Robin et al by a couple of years, which means it was written around the time of the last Sherlock Holmes mysteries - although they remained forever stuck in the late 1800's in attitude if not in their setting. This is very much a 1920's mystery story, and the quintessential one at that - the country house murder mystery.

In his introduction, Mr. Milne states that it was his intention to write the ultimate mystery story: one where the clues are laid out so the reader can guess; one where the thought process of the hero is laid out so we can follow along; one without a final drawing room reveal with a detail previously unmentioned; one without a Holmsian feat of deduction beyond the average policeman. With this beautifully presented hardback edition, he almost succeeds in his grandiose task.

It's a swift book, entertaining in a genteel way, with a reasonably interesting mystery. The pace is constant, the tone light, and it captures the time period well. The biggest surprise for me was the humour - Milne worked at Punch previously to this and it shows in the observational humour - see the dialogue of the house maids for an example. At the time, this was probably laugh-out-loud funny, and even now it raises a wry smile upon reading.

The Red House Mystery is an enjoyable piece of fluff, and well worth a read whether you are a big mystery fan or not.


Little Brother
Little Brother
by Cory Doctorow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended with reservations, 7 Nov 2008
This review is from: Little Brother (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Little Brother is a solid novel aimed at older teens and young adults. It's set a few years in the future (the date is not mentioned but they're onto the fourth Xbox console) and follows a group of San Francisco teenagers through the events leading up to and following a terrorist act which allows the restrictive Patriot Act II to be put in place.

All the way through this book, the author trod a fine line between preaching and telling a story. Much science fiction magnifies current events to predict a future we may wish to avoid, and Cory Doctorow obviously has a bee in his bonnet over events since 9/11 in the USA and the ways in which civil rights have been affected. Often he uses the lessons taught to Marcus in school to batter us over the head with information about the 60's civil rights movement, and there are also whole tracts of technical information (speaking as a web designer, I believe them to be pretty accurate), and these slow the narrative down quite a lot.

While being no Hawk myself, nor a right-wing apologist of any kind, I do think the the other characters are rather oversimplified, and the more right-wing their beliefs, the more they are portrayed as being simple, deluded or crazy. But then, since when has an author needed to present a balanced view of their political opinions? In fact, this author has very romantic notions about San Francisco, and especially the 60's civil rights movement.

Luckily the events of the story rescue us from feeling like we're being double-teamed by Naomi Klein and Michael Moore, and as these events occur the book reminded me of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson - another book set 'a few year in the future' that manages to pick up on subcultures so obscure to the mainstream that it feels like science fiction, even though, at heart, it isn't.

I don't know if Doctorow was compelled by the publisher to tack on a happy ending with the cavalry coming to the rescue and the general public coming to their senses, since it doesn't seem to fit with the general drive of his book.

While I found it a mildly diverting read, I'm sure that members of the target audience who pick it up at the right age (17 to 21, maybe) will wind up thinking this essential reading, but it's more Michael Moore than Noam Chomsky.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2010 4:20 PM BST


The Silver Linings Playbook
The Silver Linings Playbook
by Matthew Quick
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A charming, quirky romantic novel, 7 Nov 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Pat has had an undisclosed mental episode and spent what he believes to be a short amount of time in a Baltimore mental institution. He's released back to the care of his parents, but his mother's on edge and his dad won't talk to him, even when the conversation turns to the Eagles, the team who pretty much provide his father with a reason to be alive.

Pat's goal is to get back together with his wife, but his view of life is skewed - he's wrong about how long he's been away, his friends have moved on, and it seems like everybody is pushing him into the arms of the clinically depressed Tiffany, who also seems to be the only person who understands Pat.

If this book were the movie Pat believes it to be, it would be sanitised and made trendier and you'd have Garden State - a depressed lead, and a manic pixie dream girl who's just as screwed up but rescues him from his depression. This books, however, doesn't pull any punches or attempt to placate the reader. Which is not to say it's gritty, violent, or hard to read. It has a similar writing style to The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time -- a tale told in simple words or phrases from a first-person perspective by a narrater with a simple world view -- not unlike a David Beckham autobiography, actually.

The difference is that Matthew Quick manages to throw in details that we may pick up on, but the narrator does not. Obviously Pat gets his mental illness from his father, who isn't far off that way himself. It's certainly where his temper comes from. His placid, doormat side comes from his mother.

In the end, the book doesn't break any new ground. It doesn't shock or appall and it doesn't thrill. It does, however, captivate the reader and lead them on a journey in which the confused narrator figures things out, and while the overall conclusion may seem obvious, the events along the way aren't. It's perfectly paced (apart from the last couple of chapters) and despite his faults, Pat is a charming narrator.

Well recommended for a few day's bedtime reading, or one long haul flight.


City of the Sun
City of the Sun
by David Levien
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping!, 23 Oct 2008
This review is from: City of the Sun (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you persevere past the first couple of chapters, this book will grip you and refuse to let go for the rest of its duration. I read this book in three sessions and each time I really didn't want to put it down. Work and sleep had to take preference, unfortunately.

The author is a screenwriter and his writing style sits somewhere between the typical hard-boiled crime/noir style of prose and the comments you would read in a screenplay. It suits the story well and you find this clipped narration driving you on through the book.

It is this style which causes the books only misstep - the first couple of chapters. The writing style most definitely suits the book but the first chapters describe a fourteen year old boy on his paper round, and it just doesn't work.

It's not a deal breaker, though, and once that initial hurdle is leapt, you'll find yourself immersed in one of the best thrillers I've ready since The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn.

Cliched though it is, I just couldn't put this book down!


Rest Now Weary Head You Will Get Well Soon
Rest Now Weary Head You Will Get Well Soon
Offered by vinylexchange-uk
Price: £8.00

4.0 out of 5 stars An odd little album that will reward your time, if you have it to spend!, 15 Aug 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a difficult album to review. In one hour and six seconds, Konstantin Gropper covers much ground, from Sigur Ros style orchestral dirges like Prelude, to a decidedly odd cover of 'Born Slippy (NUXX)' by Underworld, to the numerous tracks that make me think his favourite album might be The Bends by Radiohead.

Props are due for the best use of brass in pop music since Badly Drawn Boy's debut on 'You/Aurora/You/Seaside', the Spank Rock/Go! Team style girly vocals on 'I This Hat Is Missing I've Gone Hunting' and the gorgeous strings on 'Witches!Witches! Rest Now In The Fire'. As you can probably tell, Mr Gropper likes his post-rock style song titles. In fact, the overall feel of the album is Godspeed You Black Emperor (circa 'Lift Your Skinny Fists To Heaven') attempting a pop album.

An earlier reviewer pointed out that this might be perfect for an 18 year old to play and obsess over for years to come. I would add that said 18 year old should have a very good pair of headphones to appreciate the layers of production which are not easily heard through cheap speakers or standard iPod headphones. My Bose headphones revealed much more going on in the music.

So, if the album is so good, why only 4 stars? Well, I simply could not imagine sitting through the whole disc in one sitting. This needs to be on LP, split in two halves, to give the listener a rest. In fact, good as it is, I can't imagine ever thinking "I really want to listen to the Get Well Soon album." I just don't have the time.

If you do, perhaps this album is for you.


Netherland
Netherland
by Joseph O'Neill
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to get lost in, 15 Aug 2008
This review is from: Netherland (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Very little happens over the course of this book that might make for an exciting narrative, although the events, were they to occur to you or I, would feel earth-shattering. This is the story of business analyst Hans, his separation from his wife and child, and the things he does to fill his time while being alone and foreign in New York between 2002 and 2004.

The dust cover would have you believe this is a book about cricket. Not so. The quotes on said dust cover would lead you to think it is all about the experience of 'post 9/11' New York. Again, not so. These two items do figure into the narrative, but are hardly the focus.

This is, rather, a book about being lost and bewildered in a foreign land after everything you hold dear and take for granted is gone. Hans realises how little he saw before this point - both in terms of the feelings of his wife, and the New York that exists all around him. Once she is gone he loses himself exploring New York with an array of first, second and third generation immigrants and experiences New York in a whole new way. Meanwhile, he continues to experience his marriage in a manner which does not match his wife's interpretation.

The beauty of the book, slight narrative and all, is the quality of prose put to paper by Joseph O'Neill. Everything is filled with the wonder of a wide-eyed Henry Miller, and it seems that Mr. O'Neill really loves New York, life, and people in general. Even when describing Hans' lowest moments, the phrases on the book pages are marvelous. I have no interest in cricket whatsoever but found this book so beguiling that it didn't matter - the enjoyment of each sentence prevailed, regardless of the subject matter.

This is, simply, a beautifully written book. Like a good meal, I couldn't wait to get to the next bite, but wished it was longer once I reached the end.

Highly recommended.


Atmospheric Disturbances
Atmospheric Disturbances
by Rivka Galchen
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Extremely convincing, but not a good book, 5 Aug 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The plot, such as it is, has already been described in detail, so here's the quick version: a middle-aged psychiatrist believes his wife has been replaced. The perfect set-up for a paranoia thriller, perhaps? Well, yes, but this is not the author's intent.

The intent is to accurately describe, from the narrator's point of view, a slide into psychosis. The author succeeds in this, and for that has my respect, Unfortunately, this leaves us with a novel of minimal plot.

The first half of the book attempts to preserve the mystery and keep the narrator's theory believable. Here, the author has my sympathy, as the last paragraph of the description on the book jacket reveals the truth about the protagonist's situation. The second half finally sees some narrative movement, but by this point, the novel has become rather tedious. Thanks to the publisher, what should be a slow, mysterious build-up in which the reader makes their own judgement becomes rather dull -- like watching the first half of The Matrix while Keanu Reeves tries to figure out the blatantly obvious.

Rivka Galchen must be an expert on the condition the narrator suffers from, and paints an extremely convincing first-hand picture of the neuroses and delusions of the protagonist, although one would expect most men in his situation to simply experience a mid-life crisis, and buy a sports car and attempt to woo 20-something girls. We receive no sense of reality, or even location, as we read. Descriptions of places and situations are irritatingly thin, and the story essentially boils every scenario down to (a) how the allegedly replaced wife would have reacted in such a situation, (b) a situation the narrator is reminded of from his past, and (c) thoughts and justifications to tie events into his delusions of conspiracy.

This story has endless possibilities, and handled by, say, Haruki Murakami, could have bewitched, charmed, excited, provoked and bemused the reader. As written by Galchen, this is merely two steps away from a research paper. The writing is not complex or difficult to follow, nor are the ideas presented likely to go over the heads of the average readers. The style is meticulous, yet dull, just like the the main character.

Ultimately, as this book reaches it's conclusion, and the reader finds they have travelled full circle, Atmospheric Disturbances can be dismissed as and unsatisfying read, little more than an intellectual exercise on the part of the author, and most definitely a poor excuse for a novel, despite the positives already mentioned.


The Virgins
The Virgins
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £6.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Head-noddingly good 80's new wave pastiche, 20 July 2008
This review is from: The Virgins (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Virgins have done their best to be authentically 80's, and have pulled it off. They sound like The Strokes with a more pop edge. Their sounds mirrors early new wave and mid 1980's pop music. Any one of these tracks (bar the rather awful Fernando Pando) could show up in an 80's compilation between Girls On Film and Blondie's Atomic without standing out as the impostor.

While I am not a fan of 80's pop in general, I couldn't help tapping my feet and nodding my head along with this disc. If the sound were rawer and the guitar a little more angular, this could be an alternative Strokes album - think Is This It? rather than later efforts. The song writing is good, the choruses exuberant and the attention to detail - even the packaging makes the disc look like an early CD from the 80's - commendable.

Perhaps this band will be a one-trick pony, perhaps not. Regardless, here they have produced 9 stellar pop songs (and one misfire) which will appeal to any old enough to remember new wave, or young enough to be coming to it anew.


La Antena [2007] [DVD]
La Antena [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Valeria Bertuccelli
Offered by Dogwoof Ltd.
Price: £8.99

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A stunning cinematic experience, 20 July 2008
This review is from: La Antena [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This movie may appear daunting -- it's foreign, subtitled, almost without spoken dialogue, and black and white.

The result, however, is a captivating hour-and-a-half of cinema which, at best, could be described as Tim Burton if he had filmed The City Of Lost Children in the 1920's. Using the same principles as Sky Captain from a few years back, modern technology is used to replicate effects from 60-plus years ago, in a mish-mash of visual styles.

The special effects mirror those of films such as Nosferatu and Metropolis, or even some of Buster Keaton's shorts, while the everyday shots appear to have been taken from early noir films of the 30's and 40's. The acting, meanwhile, is generally of the early German expressionistic kind, due to the lack of dialogue in the film. The gorgeous soundtrack seems a little more modern, echoing the romantic scores of the 1950's, but also, due to the lack of sound effects in the film, providing their replacements as if this were a Tom & Jerry cartoon. The plot is most certainly a modern one -- if The City Of Lost Children or Dark City appealed to you, this should push your buttons!

Special mention must also be made of the use of text throughout the film. All characters bar 'The Voice' cannot speak, and so express themselves in subtitles. These appear in different, graphical styles throughout the film - similar to Russian propaganda posters from before WWII. The characters interact with their subtitles, lifting them into the frame, or standing behind them, placing them over their faces or allowing them to float away. This is not as gimmicky as it may sound - imagine the subtitles to the theatrical version of the Russian fantasy film Night Watch, yet executed with far more imagination. There is also a narrative point to this handling of the text, which I shan't spoil here.

Indeed, the only part lacking in this film is the plot. Not that it is weak, but it only just stretches to 95 minutes. Nonetheless, this is an interesting and quite unique cinematic experience and is worth watching at least once.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2008 11:55 AM BST


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