Friday, 30 May 2008

The Wedding Present - Brighton 30/06/08

I've just got back from seeing The Wedding Present for the I-don't-know-how-many-th time and a very emotional experience it was too. 20 years ago, I travelled on a bus from my first college town of Plymouth to my hometown of Coventry to see them with a girl whose surname I can no longer remember; the rest I can recall vividly. Six hours or so on a National Express bus with a yellow underwater Walkman and one tape with George Best on one side and The House of Love on the other - a generation later and as soon as I hear Christine my immediate thought is Gloucester in the October dark seen through a wet window. A short stop at Bristol that made me feel homesick for the town in which I was born but had left at two.
The gig was at Coventry Poly, the girl a friend of my sister's with whom I had shamelessly played the cooler big brother card, but the band, well the band was the important part. George Best has kept me company my entire adult life, Bizarro live was about to acquaint me with tinnitus. No encores then, no encores now. Jumping for joy at eighteen has been replaced at nearly thirty eight by the ubiquitous gig-nod and tapping leg known and recognized by men old enough to know that the mosh pit promises nothing but a sprained ankle, a stitch and another futile promise to give up the gaspers.
What hadn't changed was the absolute, face-splitting pleasure of hearing the music. I cried for my dead friend, my old self and my old hopes, but mostly I just cried out of sheer bloody joy.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

In Rainbows – Radiohead

Never afraid to plough their own furrow, the ‘head. Record an album critically feted a decade later, throw away all the instruments that helped you make it, bombard the world with weird plinky-plonky political electronica, become a staple of “Have they lost it?” articles in the music press, go a bit quiet, come back with a balls-out fantastic record that you can have for free if you feel like it, look down beatifically at the world that doubted you knowing you’ve potentially changed the nature of transaction between recording artist and consumer forever. If any of this is ever applicable to Leona Jackson then SOB will eat his own shoes and go and live on Sark.

Lady Chatterley
SOB would have thought that Lawrence’s infamous proto-porn was suggestive enough, without filling the cast with French people but that’s by the by. Marina Hands gives an impressive performance as the titular aristo, which is more than can be said of the Mellors character, memorably described in the Observer as looking disarmingly like a young John Prescott. If that doesn’t put you off your morning tea and fig roll then potentially nothing will. The last version of this I remember watching starred SOB favourite Sylvia Kristel and this is an altogether coyer affair, to the relief of all concerned

As with David Tenant, the most surprising thing about James McAvoy is hearing him talk off-camera. Atonement provides an opportunity to showcase another of his range of English accents, here competing with Keira “Twice” Knightley – a woman with a voice so cut-glass it could be used in a Doncaster bar fight. This is that rare thing - a quality adaptation of a quality novel and, as sure as eggs is eggs will win a vanload of awards pretty much everywhere.

Now you’re talking. SOB’s favourite film of 2007 by a country mile is a wintry and wholly engrossing study of creativity, depression and the dark hinterlands where people’s ideals rub uncomfortably against their limitations. As Ian Curtis, Sam Riley is on screen for practically the whole film and if not for Toby Keppel’s scene-stealing turn as manager Rob Gretton, would have waltzed off with the film in his pocket. If you think you don’t like Joy Division, or black and white films, or biopics, then this extraordinary and strangely uplifting film will change your mind on all three counts.

America, not content with wanting to rule the world, also has scant disregard for the health of its own population. Medical insurance companies take so long to pay for treatments to which their policyholders are entitled, that sometimes the patients die waiting. These robust accusations can only mean one thing – it’s a Michael Moore film. While his sledgehammer tactics can grate after a while, (it’s a bit like having someone TALKING IN CAPITALS ALL THE TIME AND GOING CRAZY WITH THE EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!) it’s difficult to fault his intentions and his eye for a stunt remains undimmed. The one place under US jurisdiction where universal health care is free is, you guessed it, Guantanamo Bay so who better for Moore to take there asking for a doctor than 9/11 rescue workers shafted by their own system. Enlightening and depressing in equal measure.


For SOB, watching Tarantino’s half of Grindhouse is like being transported back to the teachers’ strike of the mid-80’s and days spent watching countless Betamax videos from a shop with a flexible attitude to age-ratings instead of revising for mock O levels. All your usual Quentin tropes are here – fast cars, pulp staples, dialog that practically crackles off the screen and the pleasant reminder that seeing an otherwise attractive girl in a tracksuit doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in Croydon

My Story by Lewis Hamilton

“This isn’t an autobiography,” said Lewis Hamilton the other day, demonstrating an admirable grasp of semantics. What it is is half price already so make sure those stickers are up to date. While SOB would like to award prizes for any stores arranging their copies in a starting grid formation and following the shape of the Interlagos circuit with a single copy of Kimi Raikkonen’s autobiography right at the end, unfortunately it can’t.

Greatest Hits by David Gray

Coffee-table classic ahoy! Around the turn of the millennium, hitherto-unnoticed head-wobbling troubadour David Gray released White Ladder. Once the nation’s dinner parties had adjusted, following the grisly death of Portishead’s Dummy, the rest of us were left to clear up the metaphorical dishes. Without David Gray, the unholy trinity of Blunt, Morrison and Johnson would never have troubled our collective consciousness. So thanks for that Dave. Fact: no one knows any other songs by David Gray except Please Forgive Me, Babylon and Say Hello Wave Goodbye. Only two of those are on here, along with twelve others that his mum would probably struggle to hum. Does any of this alter the fact that SOB has the aforementioned three songs on his iPod? Not one jot, and it would be an unwise man or woman to underestimate the sales potential of this Christmas-tastic compilation. Turn your collar up, get your hands in those deep coat pockets and get wistful, in a tasteful, middle-of-the-road styleee

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix
Officially the most lucrative film franchise in history, Harry Potter reaches that all-important 71.4% completion mark. Absolutely all reviews are an irrelevance in this case, but keep you eyes peeled for inevitable TV news footage of large piles of this being burned by Christian extremists in the wake of Dumbledore’s outing. The prospect of real wizards burning copies of the Old Testament in protest at its content mercifully remains unlikely.

Playing with Fire by Gordon Ramsay

It’s big Gordon’s f****** life story! Follow the ups and f****** downs of Britain’s sweariest chef from the early days on the books of Glasgow f****** Rangers to conquering the world with a million Michelin ****s and all of the castigating of second-rate provincial chefs and advertising pretty much everything in be-f******-tween. Brilliantly, he’s chosen the same title for his autobiography as that other renowned hell-raiser Nigel F****** Havers

Song Remains the Same (Remastered) by Led Zeppelin

Hands up who won a ticket to get the Led out at the O2? Thought not. Here’s the next best thing - a fuller version of their legendary concert film now available for the first time, with extra tracks not on the original etc etc. If there really is a land of the goblins is this what it sounds like? Possibly. At the very least it’ll be the soundtrack to a few games of Warhammer down the local Games Workshop. Lazy, knee-jerk comedy? SOB’s got it in spades, but always raises a smile at the idea of the “greatest supergroup ever” game (this is pre-Wilburys for regular readers). Pick one singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer and one wildcard for your ultimate supergroup. The hands-down winner? Led Zep with Bez. As a PS if anyone out there hasn’t read Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me by the bafflingly under-rated Martin Millar, then you should rectify that at the earliest possible opportunity.

Pirates of the Caribbean - At World’s End

SOB likes Johnny Depp. Versatile, interesting, plastered with tattoos plus he got to fire Hunter Thompson’s remains into space. If the Buddhists are right, can I be him next time please? Having lasted considerably longer than the roller-coaster ride on which it was based; the POTC trilogy reaches a climax of sorts. Part two lost more water plot-wise than Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa and it’s a bit of a muddle tying up the loose strands, but at least Orlando Bloom might go away now.

The Bourne Ultimatum

The impossible-to-dislike franchise reaches its third, and possibly final instalment. SOB is tickled by several aspects of this: He likes the fact that ultimatum, much like the preceding supremacy is meaningless and that it might as well have been called The Bourne Discrepancy for all the bearing it has on the plot. He also likes the fact that all three are cracking good action pictures that made Bond up his game correspondingly. Best of all, he likes the fact that Matt Damon is often feted as being unbelievably good looking when in fact he looks like a thumb with a face drawn on it in pen. Top entertainment all-round, the kind of film The Shooter can only dream of being and a bit like having a bag of sugar poured down your throat while someone reads a Desmond Bagley novel at you doing all the voices.

How To Fossilise Your Hamster / Does Anything Eat Wasps? / Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze?
“Put him in a prototype car at 150 miles hour and hope he crashes”, “yes”, and “just because”. These are three reasons why SOB is yet to be invited to guest-edit New Scientist, although hope springs eternal. More interesting, of course are the real answers and SOB is gratified that the thirst for knowledge among the public remains unquenchable in these days of “Strictly Come Embalming”, “I’m a Celebrity, Stop Nailing Me To This Burning Pig!” and their dubious ilk. Pausing only to lament the missed cross-merch opportunity of not selling real hamsters (something to do with the difficulty of validating genuine pet licences apparently) we present a proper knowledge hat trick and then sit back smugly.

QI Annual
Which leads me nicely on to this. Almost certainly printed too early to include a section comparing the taste of tramps’ ears in different London boroughs, but that shouldn’t put anyone off. By far the most cheering thing about the whole QI project is that were avuncular schoolteacher-to-the-nation Stephen Fry anyone else at all, he would be derided in that peculiarly British way for being “too clever by half”. That such derision doesn’t exist is testament to something or other, and whatever it is, SOB likes it.

Knocked Up
If ever a topic was ripe for hilarity, it’s the unwanted consequences of a drunken one-night stand! You’ll laugh at the ill conceived err, conception! You’ll guffaw as the guy denies all responsibility! You’ll split your sides as he’s chased by the CSA while the mother drops out of education to look after a mewling infant that, deprived of the stabilising influence of two parents grows up to be a maladjusted sociopath! (Editors note: SOB apologises for the mix-up in printing this review. If you think you’re alarmed at the change to the regular tone, spare a thought for the readers of the Daily Mail Yearbook 2007.