Sunday, 30 December 2012

Betwixt times…

'Tis the season of betwixt times, you want to be jolly but you’re kind of bored, you crave normality, then you don’t. It’s the festive mood swings and for me it starts around 4ish on that day after Boxing Day. It’s not that you’re miserable exactly; it’s more that you feel a bit intense. What have you done? What did you want to do? Will you do the things you didn’t do in the coming year?

So watching ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, although a classic, didn’t help. Nor did ‘The Elephant Man’ funnily enough. ‘The Snowman and the Snowdog’ was light relief (nothing I like more than kids crying and burying pets) There was no extended family to distract from intense times due to a plague on their house and my immediates love me well enough to let me crouch in the corner and just get on with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, it’s just this festive no man’s land which leaves me a bit like a coiled spring or, more sinisterly, a praying mantis.  So I watched ‘The Girl’. 

Was Alfred Hitchcock really that horrid? I assume someone checked. A tale of a man's vanity and obsession with beauty, there were bits I liked and bits I squirmed at. It seems ‘hell hath no fury’ when it comes to an overweight movie mogul; he ruined the beautiful Tippi’s career. It’s still on iplayer and I think it’s worth a watch. Sienna Miller’s wardrobe was a feast for the eyes. Aside from that it was predictable.

So honey traps and cold war later (keeping it jolly) ‘The Hour’ was marvellous, but seemingly I procrastinated far too long on whether to review it, it’s now not available on iplayer.

I enjoyed this so much more than the first series, mostly as the three characters I liked but felt weren’t explained got more to say in the second series, the beautiful fakery of the Maddons’ marriage and Lix Storm. Hector Maddon went full circle from a darker side right back round to a husband prepared to accept his wife’s pregnancy from another man, the said ‘Marnie’ was much more her own woman and far less the dutiful 50s housewife.

 Lix Storm (did someone do that ‘what’s your porn name?’ conundrum to name her character) who’s personal life and tragedy was hinted at in the first series by her claim, ‘I have not danced since the 40s’, and her excessive smoking and drinking produced a heart breaking scene in the final episode that stole the show for me.

Amazing what you kind find on youtube, here’s the clip. If you don’t feel teary, you’re clearly a robot.   A massive applause please, for Peter Capaldi’s obsessive-compulsive Randall Brown and the wonderfully un-duckface performance of Anna Chancellor as Lix in this scene.

And to really uplift us, Pulp has a new song (but kind of not), all smartened up by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem into a veritable booty call at many supermarkets.  That Jarvis knows how to glam up a pop song. What does it sound like? Kind of catchy, maybe don’t put on Disco 2000 or Common People straight after so as to give you time to acclimatise.

In other news, I nearly forgot about this one earlier in December. I love Tiga ‘very very’ when he does funny. How did they manage to avoid the giggle loop doing this, it’s a fruit pastel challenge to not watch it to the end people. Biggup to Kraftwerk too.

2012 is coming to a close ladies and gents. xxx

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ultraista – Relay, London Bridge

What do I love about Ultraista? Definitely Laura Bettinson’s voice, the tracks are a mix of Moloko and Massive Attack in spirit and all put together by Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead) and Joey Waronker.

Relay is the newly opened sister live venue to Cable nightclub, and although getting in felt like going into prison, I.D, scanned and bags searched by very grumpy security, once in, the bar staff were friendly and everything amounted to an intimate gig and probably the nicest venue I've seen a band in so far.

So a stylish and intimate venue and I love her voice; why have I stalled doing this review?  I had a good time but what was bitterly disappointing was the vocals I’d been loving and eager to hear were mimed to the point of vintage Top of the Pops ‘you’re singing and your mouth is closed’.

In my opinion, Bettison was singing about as much as anyone would do along to a record and sometimes singing backing rather than the main part which just looked kind of odd. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love the debut album and the show was good if that’s a minor detail for you. Bettinson’s stage presence, her faux Marilyn Monroe looks all works; she’s kind of quirky and full of energy, probably because she’s not bloody singing without a huge amount of help. The joy of an intimate venue is that you can see everything that's going on.

I'm not keen on what looked like a ventriloquist pop act at times, her voice beamed from a machine and actually ‘live’ for me is the tweaks and changes made to album tracks, the odd imperfection or missing a note gives it that live feeling I enjoy. If you want to just go and see Ultraista and dance around a bit, they deliver the goods just fine though, the sound was ‘perfect’.

So are they cheating? Godrich is a big producer man, he should know better, I’m assuming Thom Yorke didn’t mime at Radiohead gigs. And why have they been cancelling so many shows? Let’s speculate. Maybe she’s saving her voice for a BBC session, maybe she had a cold, maybe she can’t sing, and maybe she’s not even real, or Godrich or even Radiohead?

Now we were right at the front so maybe more bands than we realise are doing this but I’m not so sure. Just a few weeks back Lauren Mayberry was singing with Chrvches, it was imperfectly good, Jonna Lee of iamamiwhoami slipped up once in her show but that one is by far the best performance I’ve seen, Katie Stelmanis belts out the tunes with Austra live.

I’m in two minds as to whether I want to see Ultraista again with the vain hope that it was just that one night due to some venue or technical ‘issue’.  Or maybe they were just tired after touring so much. Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s too much to expect a live gig to be ‘live’, at least the vocals please.

We got some fabulous photographs though; she’s a great frontwoman with lots of kooky presence, if only she was brave enough, or whoever pulls her strings was brave enough, to let her sing unaided on the night.

Best tunes: