Monday, 30 November 2009

...And the biggest film letdowns of 2009...

1) Transformers 2- wow! Boy, did they fuck this one up. The critics cries about the first be a bold brash and quality lacking explosion of a movie actually pointed to why this series could be so great. It was never about depth of character and evolving plotlines, it was a fun, dumb action movie, and all the better for it. The second movie is bigger and bolder, so where does it go wrong. Well, it would almost appear that the critics gripes got to the creators as the try to carve out a complicated storyline that aims to add a level of depth to the series, but sadly derails it. Pointless plot twist that make no sense and a complete mish mash of ideas turn this film in to a car wreck of a movie.

2) Terminator Salvaion- You know, I'm gonna put this out there. This film was not as bad as everyone said it was, but it did certainly fall short of what it could have been. Ironically, the biggest contributor to it's failings is Christian Bale, the one person who gave the films fanbase faith when word of peoples invovlement came to light. He puts in the most wooden performance in a long time, admittedly probably not help by the dire script. By no means a bad movie, it is just plainly average where it could have been great.

3) Wolverine- Now this film truly stank. Bad special effects, a stupid plot, awful script and dire acting, there is nothing redeeming about this film. A shame as Wolverine is easily one of the most interesting comic book characters created. Huge shame.

Top 5 films of 2009...

1) Where The Wild Things Are- I haven't even seen this and I know already that it is going to be my film of the year. The children's book it is based on was one of my favourite books as a child, and word is that the film only enhances everything that made that book so great. Can't wait for it!

2) Let The Right One In- so close to being my film of the year. In a time where everyone is jumping on the vampire bandwagon, this beautifully quaint and yet darkly sinister film showed the Robert Pattisons of the world how it should be done. Combining elements of horror, romance and coming of age, it is an achingly beautifully shot and brilliantly acted film.

3) Role Models- 2009 was the year that the world got bored of Seth Rogen. Comedy was a tough sell this year, but this laugh out loud, foul mouthed film managed to hit the spot nicely. Generic as they come, the plot was simple and the character arcs predictable, but in Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott (in a massive return to form) they found two actors with the timing and bite to allow the film to transcend it's basic plot.

4) District 9- the surprise hit of the Summer. Whilst Michael Bay was managing to to miss the mark hugely with the second installment in his Transformer series, this turned out to be the little film that could. Unknown director, unknown cast and a completely original but barmy premise, only Peter Jackson's involvement in this suggesting it could be anywhere near as great as it was. Boy was he on the money though!

5) The Hangover- the only other comedy to really hit the spot for me this year. Crude, potty mouthed and brilliant, it was a laugh a minute hoot that made the myriad of Summer Blockbuster stinkers variable. It's also catapulted it's cast into the limelight, and rightly so as each actor created a character unique and watchable in his role.

Chuck Ragan- Gold Country

I picked this album up a few weeks ago, and it's starting to sink in. For those of you not in the know, Chuck Ragan was the gravel voiced singer of post hardcore originals Hot Water Music. Anyone who does not know that band should go out and buy A Flight And A Crash and Caution right now- two classic albums.

Since HWM disbanded, Chuck has gone one to forge a successful solo career. Losing the crunching guitars of his previous act, he know sits firmly in the alt country bracket. Sitting alongside the likes of Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes and the UK's own Frank Turner. His debut solo album Feast Or Famine Was as accomplished an album as any put out by any of the above artists. Gold Country is a little less obvious, seeing Chuck leave big choruses even further behind, instead embracing a lot of the musical heritage of the US over the years. The influence of The Band, The Byrds and Bob Dylan is easy to see alongside the likes of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

It's a slow burner and will take time to truly love, but on a wet evening when you have nothing to do and no one to see, this album is good company.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Top 5 albums of 2009

1) Architects- Hollow Crown. At a time when I find myself caring less and less about metal, this album sticks out like a sore thumb, quite simply because it is incredible. An undeniable step up from a band that have always held promise, this is to me a perfect metal album.

2) Biffy Clyro- Only Revolutions. It's almost too easy for this to be in my top 5, and that's kind of the joy of it- this band can do know wrong. They are the perfect mix of angular muso friendly noise and brilliant pop melodies.

3) Twin Atlantic- Vivarium. The Scots are clocking them up for sure. Twin are new to the game, but judging by this short but sweet mini album, they are already world beaters.

4) The Ghost Of A Thousand- ..................... It takes a brave band to take a sound that every critic seems to love and cast it aside for something new, but then TGOAT have always been about going the hard way, so this doesn't surprise in the slightest. An album full of sweaty mosh friendly anthems. More people should pay attention.

5) Jay Z- The Blueprint 3. A surprise for me how much I love this album. I've always loved a bit of Jay Z, but he's never been a favourite artist of mine. So it speak of the quality of this album that I still listen to it constantly.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Minnie Birch @ Elixir

This is another little band that I'm sure none of you have heard this band, which is a real shame. OK, so they are not the sort of thing I am usually plugging, but they are too good not to talk about. Sitting in a pub watching them perform as part of some sort of open mic night, it makes me realise how criminal it is that they are not playing to a packed room. Sitting somewhere between the proud british youth sound of Kate Nash or even Lily Allen and strong female alternative artists such as Ani Difranco and Tegan And Sara, this duo are simply brilliant. It's a rare thing that someone can pen such openly honest songs about love and heartbreak without sounding contrived or corny, but every song they play (perfectly) tonight somehow adds a new, very relatable, slant to everyday tales of matters of the heart. They do a great cover too! Check them out-, you won't regret it.

Matt And Kim- I love this band!!!

This is just a quick post, basically cause I cannot stop listening to this band- They are currently out on tour in the UK and Europe with The Sounds, and simply they are just awesome. Like a more fun Tegan And Sara, it's pure quirky indie synth pop. I can't stop listening to it, so you should too! And the videos alone are brilliant. Great example of how you can record a great video on a low budget. Check them out!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Rise Against/Thursday/Poison The Well @ Brixton Academy

Tonight's bill is strong, and this is evident from the huge queue that snakes around the building long before doors. The show is completely sold out, and there's a huge buzz from those waiting to get into the venue.

Sadly, a huge number of these people are still outside as Poison The Well take to the stage. A huge shame as they are on their usual good form. Even playing a set which ignores their classic "Opposite Of December", they still display perfectly why the are widely regard as one of the forefathers of the current metalcore scene. It is indeed one of the true trajedies of music that this band are still opening tours like this while bands that have simply aped their sound with half the passion and half the quality are somehow headlining venues this size.

Thursday are in similar shoes. The buzz that broke around the band on release of their second album, Full Collapse, was huge but quickly flattened bu the (unfair) mauling their follow up received. They've never really found their feet since, and despite repeated strong releases and an incredible live show, they've never made it back to the top of the pile. Tonight examples the sadness of this fact, as their all too brief set shows a band that sadly should have been destined to bigger things, but somehow fell short of their dreams.

Which brings us to Rise Against. Now here's a band that appear to have surpassed expectations. Whilst undeniably a great band, who could have predicted that the Rise Against that released "revolutions per minute" on Fat Wreck, would grow to be this monster of a band. For me, Rise Against always sat alongside the likes of Anti Flag and Strike Anywhere, but as the band take to the stage, it's clear they have evovled far beyond this. This is by no means underserved and as video screens flcik through footage of war and other global attrocities, it's clear the band have lost none of their political bite, and if tonight's set is anything to go by, they are still firing on all cylinders musically also. Their aggressive but anthemic songs are sung back at them by everyone in the room and it's brilliant. Moment of the night has to go to the genuinely touching rendition of Swing Life Away. Taking the foot off the pedal briefly, the song tonight stands out as an undeniable classic and perhaps hints at how this band got this big. Fair play to them.

Lostprophets @ Union Chapel

I'm proper gutted to miss King Blues and The Blackout. Apparently both bands do well, with The King Blues in particular putting in a great performance.

Anticipation is high as we wait for Prophets to take to the stage. Even the £40 ticket price (yes, it's for charity, but £40 really?!) Hasn't dampened spirits one bit. I guess my one worry would be Ian's vocals. A few times at recent shows, they've not quite hit the spot and in this up close acoustic setting, such things are far more noticable. However, I have nothing to worry about it would appear as the band take to a beautiful candlelit stage and begin to roll through a very accomplished set. There is a slight sense that their aspirations are sometimes slightly beyond what the manage, but I say this with a huge amount of respect. It's a brave band that cover Alice In Chains and incorporate an 8 piece male vocal choir into their set, so while these grandiose moments sometimes don't quite gel perfectly, absolute credit to them for having the bravery to do it, especially with only a couple of days practice. The general feeling is one of triumph. Ian's banter is second to none, and the songs stripped down sound just as incredible as they do fully amped up. New single, Where We Belong, in particular stands out, and bodes well for that long awaited album.

5 Things to look forward to in 2010

So the end of the year is fast approaching, and beyond the exciting festive season, there is already a lot to look forward to in 2010. Here's just a few of them...

1) Blink 182 return- they've been touring the states for the past year, and if rumours are correct, they will be hitting the UK in 2010. Reports from stateside suggest they are on top form and the production on the tour is like nothing else, so fingers crosseed they make it over here.

2) Kids In Glass Houses- new album. It's beem a long time coming, but finally the Welsh boys are back with a follow up to their undeniably brilliant "Smart Casual". Word from those who've heard it is that it's a bit of a departure sonically, apparently having more in common with Kings Of Leon than all your favourite scene bands. Don't worry though as the word on the street is that it's amazing also!

3) Return of Brit Rock- I hate the declaration of the return of a musical genre, but with the likes of The Xcerts, This City, Spycatcher, Young Guns, Sharks, Twin Atlantic and Your Demise all happily side stepping the idea of copying the formula of the day glow US pop punk scene, there is finally a palpable sense of UK bands that are happy to do their own thing. Just make sure you support them!

4) Bon Jovi- O2 residency. OK, so the new album is an absolute turkey, but really that is no surprise, and it will matter little to the 20+ shows the band are due to play at the O2 in 2010. Guaranteed absolute epic stadium rock, and I cannot wait!

5) Clash Of The Titans- the jury is still out on this one, but I have my fingers crossed. Whilst the original now displays moments of disasterously bad acting, there is still an undeniable charm to the film and purely on the recognition of Ray HarryHausen's pioneering special effects, a remake is going to have to be pretty special. The trailer released already looks strong, and whilst they have done away with the stop motion, the effects and action looks as exciting as I hoped. It appears to have a darker lean to it also which is no bad thing. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Well, this is cool. I don't make a habit of following bands around the globe, but work has brought me here, so I get to experience two of the UK's most popular bands outside of their UK scene comfort zone.

As Young Guns tear into opener In The Night, it's amazing to think about how far they have come in a year. This time last year, they were completely unknown, and while there is still a long way to go, it's incredible to see a few kids here singing their songs back at them. As usual they put in a powerful performance, Gus commands the audience these days with a confidence that has come from nowhere. The vocals are a little flat tonight, but otherwise this is a great introduction from them to the people of Amsterdam.

The Blackout have been here before, a few times, and the leg work has clearly paid off as the room is rammed by the time they hit the stage. The Blackout have had an incredible year also. Dismissed by some as be all style and little else, they dropped a bomb of an album in Best In Town that laid waste to any such claims. They have also spent the year sharing stages with the likes of N.E.R.D and Linkin Park which has clearly done them well. Their live show was never in question- Gavin and Sean are hugely entertaining frontmen with endless banter to give between songs. The rest of the band are like a unit these days as well, seemingly able to nail down their songs with faultless precision without even breaking a sweat. Another album like the last one and The Blackout could be contending a certain other Welsh led group for their throne as the kings of the UK Alternative scene. Watch this space.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Monday, 16 November 2009

Biffy Clyro @ Brixton Academy

Wow! Biffy overload on the blog today. Sorry, but there was no way this show wasn't getting a mention- it blew my mind. Looking at the stage set up as I walked in, it was obvious the band are out to impress, and impress they did. A towering light show and a truly deafening PA create a monolithic size to tonight's set. Like Muse, this is made all the more exciting by the fact that Biffy Clyro are just 3 men, yet create such an incredible cacophony of noise. But a beuatiful noise it is. As is usual with them, the set takes heavily from last album Puzzle and newie Only Revolutions. This is fine of course, as it means we are treated to a slew of monster tracks that could read like a greatest hits for most other bands- Bubbles, Captain, That Golden Rule, Mountains, Born On A Horse, Saturday Night Superhouse, Get Fucked Stud, Love Has A Diameter... I could go on. Realistically, with that many incredible songs to pick from, this band are never going to be anything short of great. Tonight though they are truly awe-inspiring. And as the huge throng of people pile out into the cold Brixton night, everyone knows they have seen something truly special.

Biffy Clyro- Only Revolutions Album Review.

It's no secret that I adore this band, and so the likelihood of me hating this album was slim, especially as all three singles so far have been belters. All that said, the stakes are high. Previous album was as close to aperfect album as any band in the past 10 years have created, so this one was going to have to be a brain melter, to not fall into the shadow of it's predescessor.

Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, it doesn't. From playful opener "Captain" with it's rocking rhythm and jovial vibe right through to a typically rousing closer in "Whorses", there really isn't a weak track on here.

Single "Mountains" is an obvious standout. It's chorus is in fact the size of mountains and it is with just deserve that it has become the bands most recognised track. Recent single "that golden rule" is less obvious, it's awkwards rhythms, but after a few spins you find more and more to love on it.

For me though the standout tracks on the album come when the band step out of their comfort zone a little. Bubbles is a beautifully simple little pop song, Josh Hommes stamp is all over it. The chorus is as simple as any written, but so infectious it will have you grinning from ear to ear. "Born On A Horse" is equally exciting, riding along on a skittering dance beat that grinds it's way into your brain gloriously. It's odd lyrics also standing out.

So does this top Puzzle? Well, I can't quite decide, but what I can say is that put the two together and Only Revolutions would not get lost. Beautiful and exciting in it's own right, it would appear Biffy have done it again.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Bon Jovi secret show?!

Wow! Let's put this in perspective. I have loved Bon Jovi for years. Fuck, who hasn't?! I've seen them at Wembley Stadium and at Twickenham Stadium. Both shows were amazing. I still have 7 of their albums on my Ipod. Their albums were, and remain, the soundtrack to me growing up. From the copy of New Jersey I bought from an online CD mail order company, to making my work colleagues want to kill me when I played Have A Nice Day for a month straight in the record store I worked it. The thing is, I even like shit Bon Jovi (except Bounce- surely no one likes that album?!)

So if you had told 15 year old that I would get to watch Bon Jovi play infront of roughly 800 people, I would have laughed in your face. This is truly surreal- last time I saw them, they were like ants on a stage with 1,000's of people between us. As brilliant as that spectacle is, tonight is something else. It's like watching a Bon Jovi covers act in a pub, but it's actually them.

Being truthful, the set is pretty dire. Being the promo stunt that it is to push the new album, it's new song heavy, but simply I don't care?! It's Bon Fucking Jovi and they're 10ft away from me. You Give Love A Bad Name sounds massive. An acoustic rundown of Livin On A Prayer is moving, and even recent tracks It's My Life and Lost Highway hit the spot. It really is going to take a lot to top tonight. 15 year old me would be so fucking jealous right now.

3OH!3 @ Electric Ballroom

What can I say about tonight. I went into it with something between utter indifference and straight up contempt for 3oh!3. Their geeky white rap has infuriated me since I first heard them. It's not even what they do or the style of music the play, more that I just don't think they are actually very good at their genre of choice.

Tonight goes someway to proving my previous feelings, but at the same time I find myself entertained and even enjoying the hour set. How?! Well, quite simply, a lot of the charm with this bands comes with the fact that they are not all that good. They are two underwhelming, white guys who in the quaint naffness somehow become charming and a joy to watch. Silly choreographed dance moves and big beats find me laughing and nodding my head. Other people are losing their minds to every song.

So where does it leave me? Well, I don't think I will be putting the record on anytime soon, much less buying it, but given the chance to see them again, I won't be pulling the same faces I did this time around. In fact, I might just go out of my way to be there!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Cancer Bats @ Brixton Academy

I miss the wonderful Canterbury tonight, which I am a little saddened about as their debut album (currently free to download from their myspace- I suggest you do so), is a belter.

Tonight for me is all about Cancer Bats. I love Billy Talent also, but on a Sunday evening I opt for an early one and head after the Bats storm Brixton!

It's an awkward start for the Liam Cormier and co. as guitarist Scobe's guitar fails to kcik in, dragging on their grand entrance. Ever the proffesionals, it is barely noticeable, and as the punishing opening riff of Hail Destroyer spills out, it is all forgotten. What follows is, by any other band sstandards a stormer of a set, but by Cancer Bats', it is merely good. It's by no means their fault as a painfully static audience refuses to respond to Liam's good time baiting banter and the band's monstrous songs. Their loss really as songs such as pneumonia hawk and a massive Lucifers Rocking Chair are undeniably brilliant perfectly combining crushing metal riffs with good time rock and roll vibes. New song Darkness, is a stormer too and bodes well for their iminent third album. It strays little from their tried and tested musical path, but then like AC/DC, why change what is perfect already?!

Fightstar @ Shepherds Bush Empire

Tonight's bill is as eclectic as it comes. It's also nice to see a UK band bringing out and supporting 3 other UK acts (four if you include Deaf Havana that have also been on select dates of this tour).

Prego open the day and go down a treat with a set of empassioned rock that whilst still not perhaps quite holding enough character to see them reach to Fightstar's level of success just yet, but does still display a depth of snogwriting lost on so many other bands around at the moment.

Young Guns need no introductions, as they have spent the last six months building a big name for themselves and tonights showing proves it is deserved, with a almighty wall of death and big songs seeing them warm the crowd up perfectly.

Saving Aimee are just not very good. In fact, maybe that's unfair, they just play music that I can't stand, and judging by the reception they receive, neither can the audience.

Fightstar, however, are on top form. They come out all guns blazing in full halloween garb, and pile through a set of hits that has their adoring crowd in fits. For me it is tracks from their latest album such as "Mercury Summer" and "Englsih Way" that really hit the spot, displaying perfectly where the band should be headed. They've proved their metal cred these days, and so can now just work on creating more songs as achingly brilliant as these.

The set feels short, but only in the best possible way, and as the band leave the stage triumphant after their biggest London show to date, it leaves me feeling very proud of the state of the UK music scene.

I arrive too late to catch opening band, The Friday Night Boys, already picking up a huge buzz in the States, judging by how busy their merch stall is they will be doing the same over here very soon.

The Audition are a band that need no introductions to the UK audience having toured here heavily for years. They've picked up a huge following from these repeated tours and it's displayed in the love they receive tonight. A shame then that the sound is so patchy, making it hard to pick out the brilliantly catchy choruses they are known for. Singer Danny's voice still shines through though and the crowd lap it up.

All Time Low are hot shit in the states. Right now it would appear that only Paramore match them for the adoration they receive from the teen pop punk masses over there. It's certainly starting to build over here too. The venue is utterly rammed, and the reception they receive as they hit the stage is deafening. They are often accused of taking all their cues from Blink 182 and between song banter and way around a catchy 3 minute pop tune could certainly supports this, but honestly they add a level of charm and genuine musical ability that banishes such accusations. Recent single Weightless and earlier hit Dear Maria stand out above all, but honestly there isn't a weak moment throughout their set, and the crowd here know it. Every chorus is sung back at full volume by the young crowd, and with the announcement that the band will be back in January on the Kerrang tour, it's a safe bet that they will be repeating their stateside success on these shores, and justly so!