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The Wrong Mans - Series 1-2 [DVD]
The Wrong Mans - Series 1-2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Corden
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...BUT NOT THE WRONG HANDS, 11 Feb. 2015
Yes, really, THE WRONG MANS is like a Laurel & Hardy two-reeler, but with added noir, violence and expletives. From the smallest of plot devices (literally, a mobile phone) the story escalates into an insane international caper by placing two loveable clowns (JAMES CORDEN and MATHEW BAYNTON) into the scariest situations imaginable. That they manage to navigate through it all AND make it back home is testament to a clever and largely unpredictable script. In the wrong hands this could have been such a dud, but it's the polar opposite because Corden and Baynton clearly know their way around any number of classic indie thrillers - right down to each episode's opening titles - and the Cohen brothers, in particular, seem to have been most often within the pair's telescopic sights. Series 2 opens in the State of Texas and it's obvious from the first couple of minutes that not only is the US No Country For Old Men, or Mans, but it's even less of a 'preferred destination' for the boys from Bracknell, Berkshire.

The comparisons with L&H continue, however, with glazed expressions and dumb logic, ridiculous explanations to get out of a tight spot and, somehow, the guiding hand of luck, which is neither unwelcome nor forced. That, and the fact these two ordinary council workers genuinely care for each other, raises the stakes and provides us with an emotional rollercoaster of comedy and drama and VERY black humour. You'll laugh, you'll wince, you may even shed a tear, but the five hour journey is worth every last (often bloody) twist and turn. THE WRONG MANS is an unashamedly cinematic tv triumph.

Stan and Ollie/Corden and Baynton, I (expletive) kid you not.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Sirens
Sirens
Price: £28.47

3.0 out of 5 stars SO NOT THE SOUND OF SIRENS, 5 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sirens (Audio CD)
Fine artwork and packaging but hard to rate this more than 3 stars because only two songs stand out from a sadly mediocre collection. I think the problem with SIRENS is the spark that made NINE BLACK ALPS' first three albums great is largely missing here. Sam Forrest's voice doesn't punch through like it did previously and the vocal melodies are not adventurous enough as a result, seemingly bound to the chord changes - you kind of know what's coming, and that's hard to take because I really like this band.

The production is mostly standard thrash, not much subtlety, a bit fuzzy. The sole exception is track 4 - an unexpected diversion along a by now well-beaten path. Beautiful, evocative guitars and perfectly layered vocals create the soundtrack to a distant city at night and the fractured relationships within. PHOSPHORESENCE has presence and power and is so good it really ought to be something like that. Anyway, just close your eyes and play it LOUD. (Note: if you happen to be driving maybe just play it loud?)

WAITING ROOM is the other gem. Acoustic, plaintive, superb.

There are perhaps two other numbers which make the cut: MY ONE AND ONLY and WHAT YOU WANTED but, once again, Sam's delivery is clearly a bit of a struggle despite being double-tracked, making favourable comparisons with 'Everything Is' and 'Love/Hate all the more difficult. So, nothing much else to say except buy this 2012 album for tracks 4 and 6, play the rest of course, but savour those two wonderful moments in particular.

RECOMMENDED


Of Skins & Heart
Of Skins & Heart
Price: £11.47

5.0 out of 5 stars DOWN UNDER ON HIGH, 5 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Of Skins & Heart (Audio CD)
OF SKINS AND HEART is the brilliant 1981 debut by Australian band THE CHURCH. And I still maintain to this day that they were as good as, if not better than, INXS with their driving and melodic pop/rock sound. It's a subjective opinion, of course, especially when you take into account the latter's sales and worldwide popularity, but still...

This is an album chock full of psychedelic, lyrical imagery, jangling guitars and husky vocals (courtesy of STEVE KILBEY, complete with refreshing Antipodean twang). Every element gels perfectly AND on their first attempt, no less, resulting in a collection of songs as potent - if not quite as well defined - as anything to be found on KICK. There, said it.

CHROME INJURY
FOR A MOMENT WE'RE STRANGERS
THE UNGUARDED MOMENT
MEMORIES IN FUTURE TENSE

These songs in particular stand out and possess a melodic hook so compelling you're sucked in almost without effort straight away. And only marginally lesser material rounds off the album. The production is recognisably 80's but still sounds good today and The Church come across with power and presence, so nothing about OF SKINS AND HEART is sub-par. Trivia note: FIGHTER PILOT...KOREAN WAR was replaced by TEAR IT ALL AWAY on the original UK release.

Amazingly, The Church are still knocking songs out today but it's an altogether more trippy and grungy affair, due as much to advancing age as musical progression. For me, the early-to-mid stuff stands the march of time best (follow-up album THE BLURRED CRUSADE, classic tracks such as TANTALISED and UNDER THE MILKY WAY, for example) but, as with all things musical, you need to hear it for yourself.

I don't remember being an atheist for long.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


The Punk Singles 1977-1980
The Punk Singles 1977-1980
Price: £13.31

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK OK OK, 2 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are two brilliant songs on this 999 singles album, 'Homicide' and 'Soldier', both muscular, three Shredded Wheat affairs (the former containing a blistering guitar solo, the latter an unexpectedly macho singalong). But after that, meh, nothing much else comes close. 'Nasty Nasty' and 'Emergency' are the default obvious other choices - the remaining 17 are, by contrast, seriously underwhelming. And tinny and primitive production values on the early numbers probably don't do any favours either. The band play consistently well, however, and vocalist Nick Cash sounds like a cross between a cartoon chipmunk and an evil Noddy Holder (particularly on 'Homicide'), which makes this package kind of weirdly attractive on a whole 'nother level.

One single, two perfect punk songs, and a bunch of by-the-numbers late seventies thrashes, I should be disappointed...but I'm not - it's a call still worth making.

RECOMMENDED


Love/Hate
Love/Hate
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £9.97

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE GREAT DIVIDE, 12 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Love/Hate (Audio CD)
Well, at least if opinion is anything to go by. But make no mistake, 'Love/Hate' is a superb follow-up to 'Everything Is', it just requires a little longer to get used to, that's all. It is, of course, a given that bands evolve and their sound changes but the essence of what made NINE BLACK ALPS so damn adrenal in the first place is still very much in evidence here.

'Bitter End' opens the album and, I have to say, at first I was a little concerned that the jagged edges so raw and exposed on their debut had been softened beyond rightful expectation. Common sense and logic soon prevailed, however; more a case of the band presenting a deliberately mainstream production with the emphasis on melody, and possibly a shot at the charts to boot. So I needn't have worried, it's still a good song. 'Burn Faster' and every track thereafter - with the sole exception of 'Future Wife' (can't pin it down, just plain bleurghh) - shows that they have not lost sight of their reason to exist at very high volumes. And as did 'Just Friends' previously, so did 'So In Love' once again evoke the ghost of Buzzcocks, circa 1978, easily recreating that initial nostalgic smile and a distant urge to, er, pogo (look it up). But the standouts this time around shine very brightly indeed and are the very apt 'Happiness And satisfaction' and 'Heavier Than water'.

Pop/rock/grunge/indie brilliance - love 'em or hate 'em, you really shouldn't ignore them.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Education, Education, Education & War
Education, Education, Education & War
Price: £4.99

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FULL MARKS AND BANG ON, 3 April 2014
So, just imagine you're sitting an exam and this question comes up: Summarise in bullet points the KAISER CHIEFS' new album, EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION & WAR. Yes, happy to do that, makes a pleasant change from Lord of the Flies. Okay, thirty minutes, shhh, here we go...

* Tony Blair probably won't appreciate the clever title, so that's a good start. In my opinion, of course.
* Unusual WW1 and beyond-style artwork for the insert but it does reinforce the working-class call to duty theme throughout. No pics of the boys this time around either, unless there's more to those line drawings than meets the eye. No offence, but if so then your guess is as good as mine (suggest no-one lets the artist stray into any high court proceedings as it could only end in confusion and disappointment).
* Ten songs, seven of which are simply excellent. The remaining three 'Coming Home', 'Meanwhile Up In Heaven' and 'Roses' are okay but lack that certain Kaiser something. The singles chart may disagree with two thirds of that analysis, however.
* Bill Nighy may be the new, er, Pete Best (the sixth Kaiser?), judging from his performance in 'Cannons'. Heavy and quite weird, Bill, was there a temptingly helium-filled balloon nearby? 'Cannons' is also the almost-title track, a major pulse-thumping epic. Note to all dwarf-druids: this could turn out to be the new 'Stonehenge', so don't knock it.
* Hard and driving pop music permeates the majority of this album and thank God the quirkiness is still there for all to hear (see directly above). It's what makes the Kaiser Chiefs special.
* A few catchy anthem sing-alongs are included for good measure, especially effective (and amusing) is the slightly creepy laughing chorus of 'Misery Company' and the Adam Ant-type vocal stretches in 'One More Last Song'. The superb 'Bows & Arrows' also has the bonus of a rousing chant, "...we the people/created equal..." Again, all smartly designed to lift us up.
* EEE&W is, on balance, even better than its immediate predecessor 'The Future is Medieval' and proves that maturity hasn't stunted either musical progression or creativity. Whatever the case, the Kaiser Chiefs always like to slip in a little politics and social commentary, but this time it's considerably more to the fore. Fortunately, the extended solos, pained expressions and strange posturing so beloved of the dreaded 'concept' album still seems some way off.
* There's a small but rather sad typo in the printed lyrics to 'The Factory Gates' which could only have been set by a younger member of the art department. Michael Palin may be no spring chicken but, please, it's Alan Whicker (not Wicker, fGs) and HE had his passport stamped first, tch.
* Every member of the Kaisers puts in a great performance and Ricky Wilson's voice is in particularly good shape. He remains an integral part of the band's overall personality and sound - that plus an amiable and well-adjusted transition to tv...I predict if not a riot, then at least an enhanced set of future career opportunities for the frontman (he won my vote just for saying 'records' when he really meant 'cds'). Now that's cool.
* There are times when the production gets very dense and the sound is a little murky as a result, as though every instrument in the studio cupboard - with the possible exception of the kazoo - just HAD to be used, sans restraint.
* There's a new drummer in town hammering on the skins but, yeah, he seems to have slotted in nicely. Let's hope he's from Yorkshire, or at least nearby.
* The songs that stand out most and resonate unconditionally with my musical tastebuds are: 'The Factory Gates', 'One More Last Song', 'Bows & Arrows' and 'Misery Company'. Total winners. And 'Ruffians on Parade' and 'Cannons' are themselves only a stone's throw from the top spot.
* This album will probably not feature on TB's wish list. His loss.
* Finally, and most importantly: five albums in and Leeds' finest are still at the top of their game. A few minor quibbles and concerns maybe (e.g. don't ever do a Coldplay and lose your unique personality), but a five-star product all the same. It will be played often and loud.

That's it, time's up, pens down, please try to file out in an orderly manner. Yes, not bad this education thing.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

POSTSCRIPT:
I saw the Kaiser's at their Doncaster Racecourse concert only a few days ago (28.06.14) and they were fantastic live. With the kind of back catalogue they possess you can imagine the set list delivered in spades. All the band gave it everything and Ricky Wilson showed yet again just why he is such a force of nature, bouncing all over the stage, belting out some great vocals and not disappointing with his trademark witty banter between numbers, as the following exchange demonstrates...

RW: "Put your hands up if you've seen us play live before"
(Quite a few of the audience do just that, cheers)
RW: "Okay, put your hands up if this is your first Kaiser Chiefs gig"
(Quite a few others of the audience, including me and my wife, duly oblige, further cheers)
RW: "Okay...now put your hands up if you've seen us more than ten times"
(A small but very vocal number of the audience proudly let themselves be known)
RW: (slight pause, wicked grin) "You sad b-ds!"

Ouch. Perfect comic timing.

An unqualified success amid some noisy (albeit enthusiastic) race punters and the ever-present drizzle. What a night.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 23, 2014 3:19 PM BST


Halycon Days and Cyanide Nights: Tranquillity Publishing Anthology 2014
Halycon Days and Cyanide Nights: Tranquillity Publishing Anthology 2014
Price: £2.17

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CLASSIC COLLECTION, 3 Feb. 2014
HALCYON DAYS AND CYANIDE NIGHTS is the perfect title for the second anthology from Tranquillity Publishing. Neatly summing up a distinctively high-calibre bunch of new short stories, I guarantee you'll be reading long into the short hours. Subjects covered are many and varied and there's an international flavour in both authorship and settings. Even the cover catches the imagination; I was particularly struck by faint echoes of those old Pan Books of Horror Stories and how they, especially as a child, tapped effortlessly into one's Seriously Primal Fears. It seems appropriate at this juncture therefore to sum up by quoting Stewart Lee, who said: 'I'll give it to you straight, like a pear cider that's made from 100% pears'...which means you'll also experience a glut of similarly heightened emotions with this fantastic selection. Boom!

A book which succeeds on every level, it's well worth staying up (very) late for. Buy it (and a few sleeping tablets) now.

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2014 10:03 AM GMT


Everything Is (UK edition)
Everything Is (UK edition)
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars PEAK TIMES, 12 Dec. 2013
Yes, the major and most noticeable influence here is best represented on tracks 1 and 3, but also listen to tracks 5 and 9...Buzzcocks, anyone? Given NINE BLACK ALPS' geographical origins this seems to make some kind of cosmic sense to my mind and their debut album, which is both grungy and intelligent in equal measure, appears to bear this out with its rough-edged pop perfection. The quality of songwriting on display is simply outstanding; 'Unsatisfied' and 'Behind Your Eyes' are perhaps the twin pinnacles but the final number, 'Southern Cross', carries the weightiest production and ends the album in real style.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Wondermints
Wondermints
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE VIBES ARE GOOD, 7 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wondermints (Audio CD)
The WONDERMINTS, yet another late discovery for me, this time over fifteen years late. Conversely, there's a timeless beauty to much of this album so maybe I'll forgive myself. But this is also as close to American pop perfection as it's likely to get: fine musicianship and meticulously crafted harmonies and melodies with just the right amount of edge - without which, I guarantee, I wouldn't otherwise have gone near. The Beach Boys are an important influence here and several tracks bear the style and intelligence only Brian Wilson would have brought to a song once upon a time, and the effect is powerful and evocative. Lyrically, there's a pleasing off-the-wall eccentricity to certain numbers in addition to one of the weirdest samples, taken from my favourite film of all time, 2001: a Space Odyssey. So, the vibes are good, there's a glut of unusual chords, and that suits the (musical) tastebuds just fine. There's even a reference to Lost in Space in the album's artwork(!?) You'll find all this and more.

STANDOUT TRACKS: Not an inferior one amongst them but PROTO PRETTY, GLOBAL VILLAGE IDIOT, PLAYTEX AVIARY and CARNIVAL OF SOULS are the best. Other interesting tracks you should check out on Youtube are AUSTIN POWERS, the (rejected) COORS AD song and a low-key but excellent version of Abba's KNOWING ME KNOWING YOU.

Oh, and yes I (now) know the Wondermints formed part of Brian Wilson's backing band when he played his complete Pet Sounds album live in London a few years ago. Life imitates art imitates life imitates...next stop, Bali.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Tales of Tremendous Tragicide: Tranquillity Publishing Anthology 2013
Tales of Tremendous Tragicide: Tranquillity Publishing Anthology 2013
by J. Banks
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, 19 Feb. 2013
There's no drama without conflict...simply doesn't work without it. Drama without conflict is like a pencil without lead: kind of pointless. It's fortunate then that this book has conflict in spades. Fifteen very different short stories, fourteen of which I can tell you right now are seriously worth your time. The remaining one, well, I couldn't possibly say, you'll just have to decide for yourself.

Q: How so?
A: Because I'm one of the contributing authors and I guess that's MY conflict of interest.

Now if you think such a revelation somehow compromises the following PLEASE don't read any further. But that would be a shame because, check me out, I've always been straight with my opinions. Anyway, it's up to you, not down to me, so here goes...

TALES OF TREMENDOUS TRAGICIDE is a bold and appealing anthology in which everyone and everything gets put through an emotional ringer of some kind. From the contemporary to the historical, we are presented with stories that span the globe: THE ENGLISH ROSE AND THE CAPOEIRISTA, ASIA WITH AMY, CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, CHINA DOLL; stories that require a taste for blood and a strong stomach: DIAS OF DISGRACE, LENNON PANG ONO; stories featuring unusual, sometimes comical, protaganists: FLIES, PLATE; stories where death is never straightforward: THE DEVIL'S LOST CHILD, NIGHT AT THE RIVER, THE WARD; and stories where love takes on many forms and faces: THE WEEPER, GIRL IN THE BLUE DRESS, A STORM AND A TEACUP. But what ties them all together is the process of change, a powerful, costly and, at times, terrible thing. Nothing ends where it began, no reset buttons are pushed and happy endings are only to be found in the sweet dreams of children. Actually, even they're not exempt...

Each author has their own unique style, demonstrating an abundance of invention and wit and it's what makes this anthology so rewarding. Look out for future developments from these guys.

As for the cover, a clever montage, it's yet another little pleasure trying to identify which element comes from which story. And who is that funny looking guy with the guitar?

Tales of Tremendous Tragicide, Volume One, a worthy effort from Tranquillity Publishing. Oh, and if you've been counting you may have noticed one story missing from the above, the one that falls under, you know, conflict of interest - shhh - the one I can't mention. But is it any good? Well, even if I whispered quietly that it most certainly was blah blah, etc etc, I would have to shoot you. Or me. And I couldn't do that. However, were you to come across my evil twin, a person with no moral standing WHATSOEVER, he'd probably say-

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


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