PrimaveraSound 2018. The dry year.


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I now have a close relationship with Heineken 0.0.

Having drunk about 30 bottles of the stuff during Primavera 2018 it was certainly the subject of much puzzlement as my 12 middle aged, wine-soaked compadres tried to understand why on earth I could even countenance a full blown music festival without the aid of alcoholic sustenance.

At 4am each morning (my typical home time) I questioned it myself as cat herding is not a qualification I have gained, nor an occupation I particularly enjoy.  and, for example, Mr McCrocodile’s multiple explanation of the changing of the guard between drummer and guitarist 2/3rds of the way through the Oblivions’ otherwise excellent set – which I did not have the foresight to attend – was another feature of late night sobriety being tested to its limits.

Nevertheless, these minor beefs paled into insignificance when compared to the gigantic gamut of gaiety that was enjoyed in the many, many hours that we strode the palisades of Parc Del Forum in Barcelona’s dock district.

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Not for me, this year, the sheer animal magnetism that wearing a Corbyn T shirt would bestow upon me.  Nor the orgiastic pleasure of watching a statuesque 56 year old man stride purposefully through a crowd in pristine white jeans.

No, this year was band (and record label) T shirts and Black Cargo shorts all the way.  The shorts spectacularly framing my unusual patina of varicose veins that decorate my left calf, in much the same way that many of my fellow, younger, audience members had opted for an equally eye-catching decoration courtesy of their local tattoo parlour.

George, too, eschewed societal pressure and was much photographed as he paraded the Parc.

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As is customary, each day began with the, now legendary and hotly contested, Sangria Sessions.  A three hour exploration of musical obscurity based around the theme, this year, of colours in song titles and foreign acts (not US or Ireland – to exclude the abhorrent U2).

The vessel for this quality concoction resembled the colouring of the HMFC stand.  A sort of undercoat pink.

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Quite incredibly, I now realise, Boards of Canada made my list for the second year running.  The only band to suffer this fate and meet, again, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, although they did not suffer the ignominy of a ‘hooking’.  That was reserved in my case for Scritti Politti’s The Sweetest Girl.  The fact that Green Gartside , the singer, has colour in his name met with juristic displeasure.

The Red Army Choir’s rendition of The Russian National Anthem met a similiar fate, not for its non-adherence to the rules but because none of the douche bags in my company had either the wit OR the wisdom to realise that this was irony in fantastical proportions.

Perhaps those in ‘charge’ could have displayed the same degree of Nazism to the repeated James Brown outings.

Anyway, here are my selections… (you will note in the colours list that three of my songs are by foreign bands and one has a foreign country in their name) – genius on my part.

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Day One

Our festival kicked off – after a relatively short, highly disorganised, but nevertheless excellent lunch at Etapes – we again called it E Taps Aff regularly, as is our want – with a politically charged set from transgender American artist, Ezra Firman.  It wasn’t a festival set in that he chose quite a sensitive selection of numbers and chose not to opt for crowd pleasers all the way.

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Consequently one of our group dismissed him thus “Some guy in a pearl necklace and lipstick – fuck off.”

Me, I thought it was a pleasing enough, if marginally underwhelming, start and bestow a 7/10.

Next I stumbled upon a set by Kurws – a crazy avante rock band from Wrocław, Poland.  Noisy but good.  But too short a visitation on my part to rate them.

My first Heineken zero was excellent.  Ice cold and refreshing.  Indeed the bottle was caked in ice.  But my second, and most to follow on the first night, were either lukewarm or unavailable.  It has to be said ordering Cerveza Sin Alcohol is likely to be met with a raised eyebrow followed by a frantic search among the fridges – often fruitlessly.

But Heineken is the drinks sponsor and presumably preach moderation?  So why the poor supply?

My tweet that outed them as a bunch of useless wankers, that couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, had the desired effect because clearly the CEO of Heineken Spain read it and ordered a mass chilling.  Days two and three were more than acceptably quality controlled.

Next up. Warpaint. If you put to one side that they ache to be the coolest band on the planet and couldn’t muster a smile between the four of them, even if they had a swatch of my Varries, they were pretty decent.  However, they carry the emotional punch of a fire extinguisher and, for that reason, I can’t find a way past awarding them a 6.

Half way through their set they treated us to a feedback crackle/energy surge that was louder than that volcano in Guatemala exploding.  That did crack the ice-maidenly exterior a little but didn’t quite turn their set into an edition of Loose Women.

Warpaint don’t do chat.  They’re too fucking cool for that.

Tupa Tupa were my next ‘discovery’ on my ‘stage of the week’  The Pro North outpost that’s almost in the sea.  It’s tiny but has perhaps the best acoustics in the whole parc.  I’d recommend it for you next year pop pickers.  Lots of eccentric but usually high quality fare.  I visited several times and Tupa Tupa were one of the highlights.  They are so obscure (Polish) that they don’t even make it to Spotify but I thoroughly enjoyed their set.  7/10.

Next up.  The absolutely guaranteed Marmite set of the week.  Bjork.

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Bjork, dressed up as a big fanny.

Essentially this was a treatise on environmentalism and involved Bjork striding the stage in shoes that her maw would warn her against, in case she ‘broke a fucking ankle.’

Most certainly, her maw would also have said to her “Bjork doll, you’re no really going out in that pink slimy dress and head mask that looks like an open crotch vagina are you?”

Nevertheless, she did.   In a ‘Fuck you maw, I’ll wear what I like” sort of way.

The show was a full on sexual metaphor, opening with stunning fast frame footage of flowers (mainly orchids – ooh err) bursting fecundly into life with pollen-laden stamen and pistils shimmering and waiting to drop their load.

Accompanied by 7 flautists in equally garish, but slightly less vaginal, pink dresses she treated the audience to something of a concerto for seven flutes with nary a sop to commercialism to be seen.

We did have the flute version of Animal Behaviour dropped in half way through, but that was it.

Cue mass dissatisfaction and “I told you so” comments aplenty.

Me? I fucking loved it.

Contrary bastard that I am.

True artistry from someone not giving a flying fuck but determined to deliver a set that was both uncompromised and dripping in creativity.  One of the highlights of the week.  8.5/10.

She shared the top of the bill with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  Slossy dismissed him with a simple ‘Meh” but he was in an obscurist minority.

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He was majestic.  Striding the stage with so much authority.  So much soul,  So much passion. So much anger.  So much skill (his band is indescribably accomplished).

He invited around 100 of the crowd on stage towards the end of his supreme set and one elderly lady burst into tears and threw herself around him.  It was a moment of magic.  He cultivates these.  Some say he stage manages them – but I don’t care.

For me, this is the greatest performer in the world right now, with a back catalogue that could fuel a 5 hour set without dipping into B sides.

Magnificent. Regal.  Straight 10/10.

A guy in the crowd threw a lump of cheese during the Nick Cave set and it hit a girl standing next to me “That’s not very mature” she screamed.

Whoever followed that was doomed to mediocrity and it was Nils Frahn, who was quickly christened Nosferatu by our ‘gang’, who treated us to a slow build up of Jean Michel Jarre-esque keyboard noodling with no fewer than 8 keyboards.  It was like a  demo in a Yamaha showroom.  But no matter his ability to slip-slide his way about the stage the emotionometer failed to engage and he tinkled away to a fairly non-descript 5/10.

I’ll save my ‘Meh’s’ for the earlier set by The Twilight Sad. 5/10.

As we moved into early morning territory we closed the day with a too mellow Four Tet set that failed to engage.  Disappointing. 5/10.

And so, the trek home.  It’s a shite way to end the night.  Especially if you are Doug’s carer. Albeit, he does what he is told.

We had two such evenings trying to hail Catalonian thieves driving black and yellow cabs.  One asked for 20 Euros for the final 2km of our trip back to Caller De Mallorca, the next 45.  A few seconds later we hailed one with his meter on.  7 Euros.

My ‘every day is a school day’ learning:  How do you make Vegan Cheese?

Take ordinary cheese and throw it away.

Day Two

We were awoken to two earth shattering news stories.

The Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy, had been ousted after a vote of no confidence.  But this seemed barely to ripple the surface of the calm Catalonian consciousness.

They officially didnae gie a fuck.

But more significant was the news that…Josh Martin, longtime guitarist for legendary Massachusetts grindcore pranksters Anal Cunt, had died after falling off an escalator.

The band name does carry a degree of respect for its sheer gall and so he was toasted liberally with Sangria.

This wasn’t the only story of death to pervade the week.  Keith ‘I’m a bit of a lassie’ Stoddart was carried sobbing from the Johann Johannsson posthumous tribute by Echo Collective, Dustin O’Halloran and guests playing the late film scorer’s Orphee.

No one else cared a jot, but, as drink was taken, the gig was mentioned on more than a passing basis.

Get over it Keith, man.

On the way into the Parc on the Friday, and as anticipation for the other Marmite gig of the week, The Arctic Moneys (or ‘Monkeys’ as they are now calling themselves) I was reliably informed by George that “Going to an Arctic Monkeys gig is similiar to voting Liberal Democrat, eating sweetbreads and having anal sex.  Things that should only be done once, with the emphasis on only.”

You’ll find out how accurate his prediction was soon enough.

Lunch was a spectacular treat at the superb Mastico.  Outstanding tapas followed by Squid in its ink and meatballs.  Yes, I know, the picture below looks like the aftermath of a vasectomy gone horribly wrong, but trust me; it was superb.

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Superb value, especially compared to the lunch the following day, and we will be back there next year.

Musical festivities began with Josh T Pearson.  My pick, and only mine, but I persuaded the troops to join me and he was a winner, not least because he became a close personal friend of Keith’s, albeit in a state of extreme chemical enhancement.

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Madonnatron make it to Primavera Sound

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Mr McCrocodile in enthusiastic puppy pose.

Pearson’s musicality was enhanced further by his verbal frippery.

“I know what you’re thinking, how can someone this good looking write such sad songs but hey ya’ll – models are people too.”

And…

“Y’all know the difference between a Garbonzo bean and a chick pea?  I’d never let a Garbonzo bean all over my face.”

A 7.5/10 for me Josh.

After Josh’s hilarity we tripped over to Waxahatchee.  The lead singer, Katie Crutchfield, is aptly named because she provides a crutch for her all female bandmates who collectively don’t add up to much of any great interest or virtuosity.  She carried the band too much for my liking and despite some good tunes they were out of their depth on the Primavera Apple Music stage and only mustered a 6/10.

On the way to Father John Misty I picked up another great band at the Night Pro stage.  The astonishing lead singer in ‘Austrian’ band Cari Cari was truly remarkable playing, as she did, in the first 10 minutes of the set; vocals, drums, keys, jaw harp, didgeridoo and, I think, flute. A sweet treat and 8/10.

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Didgeridoo or Didgershenot?

Father John Misty, on the main stage, played a fucking blinder.  Aided by a strangely situated orchestra (downstage left hand corner) which allowed him to handsomely stride the rest of it looking swell but, more importantly, sounding it, and choosing to roll out all of the aces for a banger festival set.  A real highlight.  8.5/10.

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He was followed by The National.  One word to describe the 30 minutes I endured of this audio equivalent of stagnation.  Boring as fuck!  (That’s three words – Ed. ) 5/10.

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Next up, and on my own because the second I mentioned the J word (no, not Jizz George, Jazz) I found no sympathisers.  But Thundercat proved to be truly outstanding with a mesmeric performance from him (on his six string bass), his keyboard player and his drummer.  All of whom had learned their craft from Benny Hill’s theme music composer after a large dose of amphetamines. 9/10.

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Talking of amphetamines, after 16 hours on the lash, and back in the privacy of our communal living space, Mr McCrocodile forcefully informed us, through somewhat mangled consonants, that he could have got any of us anything.  ANYTHING.  We wanted.

(Disclaimer:  Mr McCrocodile neither pushed nor consume anything his schoolteacher, Mrs Mason, would have disapproved of, simply that in late night conversation his imagination ran, albeit slowly, amok.)

Loudly and persistently he proclaimed

“If you wanted some snack, I’d have got you it.”

I’m still not sure if he was referring to Scooby Snacks or heroin.

After Thundercat I made my way back to the Primavera stage for an oddly constructed, but in large part brilliant, set by Charlotte Gainsbourg.  It will definitely make me listen to her latest, excellent album (Rest) more often (in fact I’m listening to it now).  The trouble is she played her best cards in the first half of her set and drifted into her hippy stuff later on.  She went out with a whimper, not a bang, but still merited an 8/10 for her outstanding first half and really good set design.

The night was bubbling up nicely for Idles.  Some of us had already enjoyed their insane leftist rants in Glasgow earlier this year, at The Garage.  But nothing prepared me for what was to follow.

Arriving early I was surprised to make my way to the barrier where I joined Doug in one of his more coherent moments.  Not long after, Stoddart joined the fray.  We were on the rail for what was about to become the biggest mosh pit any of us had ever seen in our lives.

For the next 25 minutes I thought I would die of a heart attack, or trampling following concussion, or blindness because someone crowd-surfing-twat kicked me in the head not once, which would have been fine, but twice.  It was on the second occasion that my spectacles exited face left and found me scrabbling among the gooey detritus of two days of mayhem.

But, as luck would have it, my Gregories survived the trauma and, soon after, I took solace in the sidelines.  Sodden and bleeding profusely from my over-exercised nipples.

“Why don’t you use vaseline?” asked Stoddy.

“I would, but it ruins your T shirts and anyway, my nipples will grow back.” I advised.

(What the fuck are you on about? Ed.)

<< Rewind to 48 hours earlier <<

I’d gone out on the first of my three morning runs in Barcelona.  I was feeling fit after my Edinburgh Marathon exertions of the weekend before and I love running in new places so I managed 5 miles each day in sweltering heat.  As evidenced below.

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The trouble is, as soon as my nipples make contact with wet cotton it’s as if I’m being attacked by a cheese grater.  Blood normally follows.  It did.

On telling my daughter Ria, in Australia, of my exertions she opined;

“Fucking little bitch, you’re the ‘special’ who goes on runs at Festivals.  You’ll be a vegan next.”

>> Fast forward to Idles again >>

So my nipples are gushing like an elephant on its dabs, my head is pounding from a near stamping to death, my near blindness has only just been avoided and my legs are like jelly.

Then they crank up into Mother.

It’s just brilliant.

A straight 10/10

That was enough for one day.

Nah.

Was it fuck.

Confidence Man.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better it nearly did.

Confidence man.  Australia’s answer to Dollar.  Only good.

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Watch the charts folks because they are gonna be massive.

It was late, admittedly – they came on stage at 3am – but I’ve been listening to, and loving, their album since its release in April so there was no way I was missing them.  Mr Peter was in on it too, and Doug.  But Doug had been on something (10 pints of Heineken , a bottle of red wine and an 11th of a bucket of Sangria) that made both knees bend at impossible angles and almost completely fail to support his upper body weight, so he decided instead to sleep from start to finish of this magnificent gig.

I was in no way prepared for just how good Janet Planet, Sugar Bones, Clarence McGuffe and Reggie Goodchild would be (the latter two dressed in black veiled hats like  some terrorist cell from The Marigiold Hotel).

This is proper pop sensation stuff and the Ray Ban crowd went fucking bananas until 4 am when we all crawled back to central Barcelona.

Outstanding.  Another straight 10/10.

On the tram back into town I was chatting to a couple of girls who looked at me open-mouthed.

“Have you been on substances mate?”  They asked.

Merely the drug that is music my dears; merely music.

Day Three

Otherwise known as anticlimax day.

The lunch at the beach front fish restaurant we chose, Els Peixaters for the record, was extraordinary, in that it cost extra and was ordinary.

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Far from put off by price or banality, David indulged in the lobster.  His Amex Card sweating in the sun.

We quickly shrugged this off as the luck of the draw and headed instead towards Parc Del Forum for the final instalments.

First up, former Only Ones’ lead singer Peter Perrett and his two sons and two foxy birds, one of whom, had she have mustered a smile, might have melted our hearts.

By rights Peter Perrett should be toast by now given his well publicised ‘habits’ but he’s still with us and although we had to wait until the last number for Another Girl, Another Planet he treated us to a great set, with a voice that is once again intact and is as distinctive as his stage attire of red leather jacket and red cotton chinos.  A solid 7.5/10.

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Next up, 70 year old Jane Birkin. (She of “did she or didn’t she while recording Je T’aime with Serge Gainsbourg?” fame, and mother of the previous day’s smash, Charlotte Gainsbourg).

In 2016 the FrancoFolies Festival of Quebec commissioned Birkin to create a ‘Gainsbourg Symphonic’ concert with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and it was this piece that she brought to Primavera.  With a full symphony orchestra her performance was electrifying and actually quite moving, although after about half an hour it was boring as fuck and we left. 7/10.

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We then squeezed our way into a pretty rammed crowd for Slowdive who were just great.  However the lead singer needs a word with herself.  Her wardrobe mismatching made me look like Oscar de la fucking Renta.

And it’s proof positive that cool tattoos at 18 look uncool at 40 something.  Trust me, and more importantly heed me, on that one my younger friends. 7.5/10.

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I saw Lorde for about four songs.  Three too many.  She jumped around enthusiastically a lot in a sort of negligee.

It didn’t make her songs any more interesting.  4/10

And the shouty Chilean Rap, jazz, heavy metal combination of Como Asesinar A Felipes lost its ardour after 3 numbers I confess. 4/10

By now I’d been hanging about a bit waiting for Arctic Monkeys (5/10).  Or, as it now seems they call themselves, Monkeys.

(But won’t that just confuse them with THE Monkees? Ed.)

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Monkey drumming.

It turned out to be an unwise use of my time as they were disappointing.  Mainly because I could barely hear them.  Maybe my ears had been broken by that Idles kick in the head.  Maybe some sadistic cunt on the sound desk was hypersensitive to sound.  Anyway the crowd chat was louder than Alex Turner’s so I got out of there and reserved, instead, a good spot for OneOhTrix Point Never (7/10) on the far distant Bacardi Live stage.

Now, OneOhtrix Point Never is not just a challenging name but his music is pretty challenging too.  Nevertheless it was an enjoyable half hour and, I felt, a better choice than enduring the remains of the Monkees’ semi-audible climax.

Plus, it gave me a barrier place for John Hopkins; one of my picks of the week.

It was not to disappoint.  A stunning hour of rampant techno in which the entire crowd (well all the people around me) ‘pogoed’ throughout.

The nipples bled again.

The fourth straight 10/10 of the week.

Brilliant.  And we were treated to the classiest majorettes routine I’ve ever seen.

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And so it ended with Public Service Broadcasting.  Mr McCrocodile on form, setting up Stoddy with a dance (he didn’t want any schnacksch). But we were too far away and too tired/disengaged. 4/10

Day four

Pished with rain.

Went home.

Plane late.

Fuck off Vueling.

 

 

Creditors, at The Lyceum.


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This is one intellectual heft of a piece of theatre and for that reason it most definitely is not for everyone. If you are even considering a coin toss between this and Wicked, showing down the road at The Playhouse, I’d probably recommend you opt for the green faced fun.

Because fun is not an adjective I’d reach for in describing David Greig’s adaptation of August Strindberg’s 1888 Swedish tragicomedy.  (For Celtic fans I am sorry to advice that there are no references to Hibernian FC setting up their B team in Glasgow at that time).

There are laughs in act one, don’t get me wrong, but not fun laughs.  Sharp intakes of breath precede most of them as we observe, almost voyeuristically, an encounter between two men nearing the end of a six hour conversation (or is it a therapy session) that may have started out as, or may be concluding with, a detailed autopsy on the young Adolph’s infatuated love for his wife Tekla.  The older man has much advice for his sappy companion, all of which undermines him and his relationship with his wife.

It’s a complex, extremely dense psychological drama that has a neat technological twist in Act Three that breathes a great deal of life into what would otherwise be a marathon two hour sitting.

Indeed the Act 3 device is both innovative and exciting and makes the last act crack along to its dramatic conclusion.

Director Stewart Laing has introduced an intermissionary theme that uses a UK Garage track to underscore a group of Girl Guides robotically trekking through the surrounding Swedish countryside.  It’s funny, fresh and ultimately plays a role in the play’\s denouement.  I liked it a lot.  Although entirely (and deliberately) out of place its very presence emphasises the tension that is developing in the main body of the play.

On returning to the dialogue, each time, it accentuates the cold, serious tone that reflects the period, location and nature of the play with its deliberately mannered acting.

And so that brings me to the performances.  Edward Franklin, Stuart McQuarrie and Adura Onashile present a master class between them.  It’s difficult to present material this dense whilst maintaining the audience’s deep concentration and to make what could easily turn into a dirge a vibrant enthralling psychological drama.

Really this a supremely confident and grown up production that would be packing them in on a London stage.  Let’s hope there are enough wise old souls in Edinburgh wiling to take a chance on a play that rewards throughout and leaves a deeply satisfying aftertaste to savour long after.

Why I don’t think War Horse (the play) is that great: Theatre Review.


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War Horse is a major crowd pleaser.  It’s an adaptation from a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo which, written from a horse’s point of view, tracks his story from birth through to the end of World War One and the relationship he has with his young owner; a teenager called Albert.

But in the stage play the first of the big changes is that the story switches to a third person POV, in which we observe the story from our own perspective, rather than the horse’s.  I suspect that immediately weakens the emotional sensitivity of what many consider a classic children’s novel.

I first saw the NT live screening of the National Theatre production a few years ago and put down my disappointment to the fact that I wasn’t witnessing the show in the flesh.  So last night was my chance to recalibrate my opinion with good seats in the Dress Circle.

The fact is the story is relatively far fetched, not impossibly so, but I found it difficult to engage with anyone in the play, male or equine alike, and so found the story slightly fantastical.

The next problem to overcome is the acting. In this touring production, showing at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, it is, at best, passable.  And the script, at points, is just plain silly – with too many ‘All ‘Allo type dialogue moments. (For those of us old enough to know or care it’s an appallingly mediocre BBC sitcom set amongst the French resistance in occupied Germany written in Franglais and faux German.)

I found my attention wandering constantly after the early impact and occasional highlights, of the excellent puppetry by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, wore off.  For sure, the horses are wonderful (but the Goose is even better).

The staging can be highly dramatic and some of the (extremely loud) battlefield scenes, as the titular Joey becomes a ‘War Horse” and endures the travails of the front line, are quite spectacular and genuinely original.  But it can also be a bit limp.  The device of the torn paper on which rather uninspiring animations are projected has the effect of compressing the stage and forcing your shoulders down to peer into an almost letterbox-like action area.

The fact is, special effects do not make a great entertainment experience on their own.  A spectacle, yes.  But the structure and framework (script mainly) is so weak that it becomes a constant anticlimax with little in the way of emotional engagement.

I wouldn’t recommend this.

 

A Quiet Place: Movie Review.


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This horror film works extremely powerfully on a number of levels.

It perfectly demonstrates Hitchcock’s thinking “There is a distinct difference between ‘suspense’ and surprise’, and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. – if filmmakers keep spectators unaware, they can create “fifteen seconds of surprise,” but if they inform them of the impending encounter, they can produce “fifteen minutes of suspense”

In A Quiet Place director (and co-star) John Krasinski (who directed three episodes of The Office – not exactly a training ground for this) has clearly listened to Hitchcock because everything about this superb movie is driven by suspense.  I counted ten times when I leaped from my seat, but I was on the edge of it from start to finish.

It’s lean, taut, beautifully shot, expertly sound-tracked and superbly sound-crafted (absolutely essential in a movie that’s about noise).

His acting, and that of his entire family (particularly the outstanding Emily Blunt – his real life wife), is razor sharp.

And the whole thing is done and dusted in a creditable 80 minutes flat.

Bish, bash, bosh.  Job done.

Scared the shit out of you.

Now, go home.

Really, this is film craft at its finest and goes straight into my top ten horrors of all time alongside…

  • The Shining
  • It Follows
  • Get Out
  • Alien
  • Jaws
  • Psycho
  • The Exorcist
  • Rec
  • Paranormal Activity

What brings these all together (with the exception of The Shining and possibly Rec) is the lack of REAL horror.

Less, in my book, is generally more.

What makes this movie so damned good is the relationship Krasinski builds between members of the family.  His willingness to dispose of lead characters with a minimum of fuss makes the whole much more believable and credible and the fact that the story treats its audience with respect.  It has a strong beginning, middle and end although we join the story some 89 days into its telling.

The visual clues are subtle.  The emotions real, small and detailed.

He makes few plot mistakes (although the ‘nail’ set up is a little contrived and ‘the spaceship’ has a pretty big ‘guess what’s coming’ flag attached to it).

The gore is minimal which is how I like it.

Now, look at that list above and you can see a golden age of horror emerging: A Quiet Place, Get Out, It Follows, Rec and, just missing the list, French horror, Raw, are all pretty recent.  They are all minimalist but they are all a) brilliantly directed and b) finely acted. The craft skills are evident in abundance in all five, but none of them need a lot of gore to engage their audience.

I hope Krasinski gets his just rewards for this.

Reverse Evolution. How Dr. Martens are trying to defy the laws of Darwin.


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During Darwin’s trip to the Galapagoan Islands he noticed that, island by island, the local finch populations had adapted their beaks in shape and functionality to perform the rudimentary tasks required to feed themselves from the available food source. Et Voila! the theory of evolution began.  Small positive changes over a period of time that made the species stronger, fitter and better equipped for long term survival.

So it had been with the Dr Marten boot, which too displayed Darwinian evolutionary principles, from its birth in post WWII Germany until the early 21st century when its popularity, in decline at that time, nearly bankrupted its makers; R Griggs and Co in 2003.

The Dr Marten started out as a working man’s boot/shoe with their comfortable bouncy ‘Airwair’ sole that made them de rigour for factory workers, posties and coppers before becoming the anti-style statement of a succession of youth movements, all of whom could, in one way or another, be described as anti-establishment.

But the DM (my preferred moniker for the Dr. Marten shoe or boot) has unquestionably  evolved, virtually shapeshifted in fact, since its heyday in the late 1970’s and early 80’s.

My own discovery of DMs (the 1461) came in the late 70’s as a spotty university student (may have been my latter school days, but I can’t really nail it).  I wasn’t a punk – the discovery was largely based on comfort.

Sure, the ‘comfort’ proposition came with a caveat. They were difficult to break in.  The ankle area around the Achilles Tendon would take a severe bruising and chafing for several weeks, but it was worth worth it in the long run because what followed was years of indestructible comfort.

I have never felt confident enough to choose the yellow stitching variety – so strongly associated with rebellion. Although I did once purchase brown – not even ox-blood – 461’s  when brown shoes and blue jeans briefly defied the long term rules of fashion.

I wore them with a suit – my own private rebellion at a time when DM’s were in serious decline and seriously lacked style credentials.

I didn’t care. (That’s why I am an archetypal DM wearer.)

When I became the proud father of teenage kids I desperately tried to persuade them to wear DMs because, to me, they were such an anti-style statement that I foolishly believed they (my kids) would look cool.

They wouldn’t.  Because they, as ‘millenials’ (Christ, I fucking hate that word) had no rebellion in them and so need for DM’s

Perhaps inevitably popularity declined.  Rebellions ran out towards to the end of the millennium.  ‘New Labour’ was a reflection of us all going soft perhaps.  It was Toryism in disguise after all.

The role of the DM to kick holes in authority, with its comfortable bouncy soles and high quality leather upper (sometimes hiding steel toe-caps) was in, at the very least, abeyance.

And so the DM had to reinvent itself.

It started with a business transformation, making what may have seemed essential but will come back to bite in the long term, by moving their manufacture from England to Taiwan and China and, not that long after that in 2013,  the company sold to a private equity company,

The result?  Quality has taken a kicking.  The soles split easily.  The uppers tarnish, flake and generally do not serve their functional purpose and, actually quite quickly their new found fashion icon role.

And yet, as the shoe’s quality product credentials have plummeted, its ‘coolness’ has increased.

This is reverse Darwinism.  Evolution in a horrible, spastic contortion where DNA gets mangled for short term fitness at the cost of long term survival.

How many people under 20 have you seen wearing Ramones T Shirts?

“Who are the Ramones” you might ask them.

Glassy eyed looks might be the response.

So it is with the DM.  It now comes in what seems like 5,000 styles.  A veritable cornucopia of designs largely spray painted onto the blank canvas of the 460 boot and 461shoe.

These new, shit, versions cost 2.5 times as much as I paid for the originals. This is not the result of inflation – were inflation at play they may cost £60-70, but they are £115 or, if you want what me and my pals used to buy (the ‘Vintage”), you’ll pay 3 to 3.5 x as much at £150 – 170 a pair.

British fashion is really rubbish sometimes.  The Mini is another good example of a brand having a purpose (size and economy) and that purpose being OVERWHELMED by fashion.  The Mini is no longer small.  It’s not a fucking Mini any more.

Anyway, here endeth my rant.

I have three or four very old pairs of DMs.  They are intact.  I wear them regularly.  I will not be buying shit Asian imports at £115 and/or paying £150 for the same shoe at double its real value.  I will seek dead mens’ shoes in charity shops and vintage stores to keep my love affair alive.

Long live DMs.  Death to the new fashionista version.

 

 

 

 

Isle of Dogs. The New Wes Anderson: Movie Review


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Is it an ode to Millwall?  Is it a statement of undying adoration for our four legged friends?  Is it a literal description of his movie which features an archipelago where Japanese canine’s are despatched offshore?

Whatever it is Wes Anderson’s latest minutiae-packed art form is a thing that inspires awe.

You simply have to ADMIRE Wes Anderson’s work because no-one (not even Guillermo Del Toro) approaches his craft with such precision, such forensic detail and because this latest epic is created in stop frame animation he has the opportunity to go microscopic; boy does he take it.

I’ve never seen a stop frame animation so beautifully lit.  Nick Park is no slouch but he prefers grand gestures, huge laughs and bold statement.  Nothing like this detail.  This art.

That all makes it sound sterile, fussy perhaps, but it’s not.  Under the art lies a beating heart of humour and passion for our fine four legged friends that no-one else could get even CLOSE to emulating.

It’s a bit too long, I’ll grant you that.  And some think its Japanese-ist (I don’t buy that).  It’s not a pastiche of Japan, as some say, it’s an homage.

The thrilling ‘Taiko’ drumming that sets the wheels in motion relentlessly underscores a movie that takes Japaneseness to thrilling heights of respect, with some humour of course – it’s Wes.

The, rather slight, story, is about a vile Japanese city-dictator, and cat-lover, banishing all of Megasaki’s  scabrous dogs to a toxic island of waste.  Thereafter it follows the quest of a young boy trying to rescue his pet, Spots, from this hideous prison.

The voices are great, but best by a mile is Bryan Cranston’s as the lead stray, Chief.

You can read the detail elsewhere.  But a Wes Anderson movie is a Wes Anderson movie and for that reason it has to score highly.

It’s stunning, gorgeous, brilliant and nearly as good as Grand Budapest Hotel.  But not quite.