Recent Listening. Tom Waits. Bad as Me.

Stunning record. Shite sleeve.

Jesus Christ!

Tom Waits my have pulled off the greatest recording of his already great career.

Waits has had a habit of producing impenetrable recordings that leave you cold.  For me he peaked at Blue Valentine (1978) and then Heart Attack and Vine in 1980 before putting out great records such as Swordfishtrombones (1983) and Orphans (2006).  His album with Gavin Bryars where he sings alongside a tramp (Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet) is astonishing too.  But there has been much to pass by in between these classics.  Alice anyone?

This though finds Waits in stunning form.  It is a beast of a record opening on Chicago with a pulsating steam train clatter and the deepest Bass Sax growl you’ve ever heard.  “All aboard” shrieks Waits as the 2 minute classic reaches it’s denoument and we the fearful passengers set off on a voyage of discovery that veers from distraught weeping and gnashing of teeth on the amazing “Raised Right Men” with its factory clangings and steam hisses to the downright scary title track “Bad as me” that opens again with that aforementioned bass sax that reminds me of Amy Winehouse’ Back to Black.  Hell Broke Luce is simply Waits on steroids.  His voice never gravellier.

It’s as if Waits life depemds on this record, so intense is the experience.  And yet, it’s tuneful, engaging, funny and enveloping.

Absolutely essential listening.

Recent listening. Hotel Shampoo by Gruff Rhys.

The title reflects Gruff Rhys' hobby of collecting hotel shampoo bottles. A laudable occupation.

Gruff Rhys is the lead singer in Super Furry Animals.  Wales’ finest band by some considerable margin over the last ten years in my humble opinion.  So, what to make of a solo outing?

Total control of the qualkity control button is my conclusion.

More super soft arrangements, quality harmonies, particularly when guest singer El Perro Del Mar (great name by the way) pops up on track 9; Space Dust  number 2.

This is a great pop record with no pretentions to be any more than that.  Wholly recommended.


The Ides of March kicks Tinker Tailor’s sorry Limey ass.

The Ides of March is to the USA what Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is to England.

Each country’s respective A teams line up to impress us with what they can respectively muster.

It’s a hopeless non contest.  Aided mostly by the fact that the American material is richly plotted and deeply absorbing whereas the English mire themselves in dense sub plotting that renders the whole thing indigestible.

The Ides of March is outstanding.  George Clooney, overlooked by many critics in this role because he is not always the centre of attention, plays Governor Mike Morris, a Democratic presidential canditate (complete with Obamaesque marketing materials) so well that you would unquestionably believe it if Clooney announced tomorrow that he was running for the real presidency.  And hell, if Schwarzeneger can run California and Reagan was good enough for the White House; why not Clooney?

So let’s clear up one thing from the off.  Clooney is immense.  Clooney is one of America’s greatest ever movie actors and this is a subtly downplayed ‘best of George Clooney’ performance. Not only that; he directed it, wrote it and produced it.  Is there nothing he can’t do?

Playing opposite King C is his heir apparent, Ryan Gosling.  Gosling is the central fulcrum of this brilliant movie but he has a safety blanket of complete and utter class:  Phillip Seymour Hoffman as his world weary boss, Paul Giammatti as his boss’ direct adversory, Marisa Tomei as a grubby Wall Street Hack, Evan Rachel Wood as the love interest (well, love would be stretching it.  Let’s just call it lust.).  All are superb, and it’s great to see Giamatti not playing a buffoon for a change.

But let’s focus on Gosling for a second.  Gosling can not put a foot wrong right now.  I fancy him for at least two Oscar nominations this year for this role and for Drive.  He has so stormed the Hollywood A list as to make it his own (Clooney beware) and you see him only getting even better if he can keep his eye on great roles in truly great movies.  In Ides of March he sweeps through the movie with ease, just as in Drive he starts out all likeable and decent but as it progresses his darker side emerges.  I the case of Ides it all centres around his “affair” with 20 (or is it 19) year old intern Molly Stearn played seductively By Evan Rachel Wood.

It seems that interns are both forbidden fruit and fair game in equal measure (Monica Lewinsky anybody?).  Her sleeping with Gosling (who plays Morris’ deputy campaign manager Stephen Myers) sets of a chain of events that it would be unfair of me to reveal.  Suffice it to say the last half hour has more twists and turns than a slinky on a spiral staircase.  It’s gripping.

This is a very fine piece of modern American cinema, the fact that is adapted from the stage makes it well crafted and honed to perfection.  Expect serious rewards in the Ides of February in the Kodak Theatre.