Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Fall, BBC something, I don't know, bit annoyed with it.

Is anyone else who loved The Fall feeling a bit confused and angry at the ending? I watched Series one and two up until the finale without blinking, it took me three watches to get to the end of the finale and both times I fell asleep at the same point, 60 minutes into a 90 minute special. Anyone else smell a rat?

Up until this point, it was layered with complicated and not so complicated layers of communication (note the love sick puppy, drunk idiot that pushes his boundaries, forgotten his name, he looks like Eric Cantona basically)  problems between men and women; control issues, patriarchal structures like the church, the IRA, the press, law enforcement; at times it was like it had taken on too much. But maybe its point was that it is everywhere and everything? There's a killer on the loose in Northern Ireland with a mannequin in the roof with locks of his mother's hair, he's killing women and taking more locks of hair, jewellery, choking them slowly to death then bathing them, painting their nails and putting them back in bed. And his daughter meanwhile is drawing pictures of naked women she thinks she's seen in the house and being given the jewellery of dead women to wear to school.

Clip to his wife who is a nurse in a premature baby unit caring for the most vulnerable, and who looks nothing like his mother or his victims. It's significant of course because men get obsessed with a certain look and whether it's good or bad. I know 'not all men' but most.  But from series one to two, it's like it kept taking the wrong turning at some points and I don't think that's to do with writing, but more to do with another patriarchal corporation running the show. Maybe?

The drama has got it in the neck at points for glamorising male violence against women and Stella Gibson being in high heels and a see through blouse for the most part as a professional crime investigator. Well guess what? She's also a victim of an obsession with her father's looks and smell and whether or not he 'possessed' her (I think that means raped) or whether she wanted him to is again not clear. Also, I think the blouse thing was only a couple of times and was focussed on a bit too much really.

She's a 'strong' character (like Thatcher, cold, acting like a man)  but ultimately another victim who is cold and calculated with sex and cries very subtly at points when she watching tapes back of evidence of the killer's grooming and childhood. Her character also spends most  of her dialogue looking like she's on the verge of an angry orgasm. But I liked that, it showed a layer to it all that most don't think about. It's about silencing and privilege and finding the dialogue you can to get what you want. It's uncomfortable to watch but making a choice is not always empowered but often guided by society and getting a result. Maybe Thatcher should have looked like she was on the verge of an angry orgasm rather than going home to don a pinny to make dinner even though she'd ruined the country for a day.

The killer works out a way to distract by making out he's had an affair with his babysitter, a minor. There's been inappropriateness but no affair. There's definitely been some abuse and manipulation and as Stella Gibson points out to him later that tying up a woman, choking her to death slowly and then posing her dead body is rape, his reply is 'no it was not sexual'. And quite rightly she points out that choking the last breath out of her person is 'possession'. Bravo. Another myth about raping is that its sexual; no its about possessing and controlling and violence. Then she tackles the other myth that men that kill are monsters. Eric Cantona (again I can't be bothered to find out his character's name, he was so pathetic) turns up at her hotel drunk, wanting 'to fuck, bang or nail her' and won't take no for an answer...except she punches him. And HE says he would never 'use that language'. Meanwhile the killer has been reading her diary and now knows she has 'daddy issues'. And he says the killer is a monster. Her reply is 'no he's a man', you're not as bad but you 'over stepped the mark'. Paraphrasing of course, I can't watch it again.   It's in everything and everywhere to different degrees.

So after all this and the nuance and the predictable location of Catholicism and Ireland, we get to the last half an hour of this drama that has been challenging and good and it all seems to go a bit tits up? Merlin turned up a few episodes ago and he's a game player in the last 30 mins of the finale. And  this is what I think basically is it.

1 The writer thought he was getting a third series and was told 'no' due to BBC axing and thought 'fuck it' and wrote a 30 minute add on that was awful Or ...

2 Merlin is the killer. That is why Stella ran to Spector and tried to stem his shot wound after seeing that Rose Stagg was shut in a boot with food and water. And Spector was obsessed with fantasy, hence the mannequin and that he never actually touched the babysitter. And his wife and daughter were not oblivious, not stupid and innocent, but instinctively 'know' he's not a killer.

3 And Merlin got a bit humpy about Stella saying he was like Spector, in age and looks. 'What else?' he says.

4 Or it was just a disappointing pile of shit in the end.

You're welcome of course. Next up I'm reviewing a couple of books.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Under The Skin: Directed by Jonathon Glazer (spoilery)

‘Under The Skin’ reveals Earth as an alien planet. To be honest it always feels like that to me but this film at first looks like science fiction eye candy… yet it isn’t. I don’t even really think it has much to do with an alien but rather a comment on the human race and what it is to be the 'other'. Why on earth would an alien choose the body of a female to inhabit to observe humans, mostly men, in this film? But then you realise this works, to a point.

The film starts with a very beautiful Scarlet Johansson, the alien, taking the clothes from a dead human woman, there’s little explanation for why she’s dead, it’s more a shot of white and black disguise, though the alien doesn’t really need it with an outer skin of female. Are women aliens on their own planet then? There is an erotic oddity and grim reality about the first half that (to me) looks like a comment on misogyny. A woman in a white van, driving along and cat calling men, asking them to get in her van, though her language is nowhere near the level of your average white van man’s, it looks like a kind of gender reversal, or at least an attempt at that.

The men get in the van with her, they appear stupid and vulnerable, and dare we say ‘they asked for it’. She uses her femininity as a weapon, lures them into thinking they will have sex with her, hypnotises them and takes her victims into a big cavernous black tar like substance that melts them. How many of us women have wanted to do this after being curb crawled or cat called? ‘She’ or it walks away from a crying baby on a beach as the tide is coming in, again a challenge of normal expectations of femininity and nurturing instinct. At this point she seems a woman, demonised, and not an alien.

There’s a point in the film where she is given roses and she bleeds from her palms like stigmata, hinting for me the end, her sacrifice for humanity, or the burning times. Again for me this is so tied in with femininity and of course, the burning of witches. The blurred lines of spirituality, science fiction, paranormal phenomenon and the suppression of the feminine divine, all of which try to do this very same thing. ‘Under The Skin’ had many layers for me on watching, the fickleness, mean and selfish aspects of the human race and the submission of the female in her strength, her fall always being patriarchy. This is for me where the film becomes despairing. The man on the motorbike is like a puppeteer pulling her strings, he gives her the female form and her encounter with him leaves her submissive, falling in the streets of Glasgow, humiliated and vulnerable, basically human or in context, a woman.

This is where I always want aliens to stay alien, circa ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’. For me it’s like an arrogance to believe intelligent beings would really fall foul to our weaknesses if they landed here. She (because we can’t see beyond her female form by this point) starts to feel sorry for imperfection, to empathise, all portrayed in the face of a deformed man she picks up. This was a major fail for me as an alien would not see deformity, surely all humans would measure equal even with proteus syndrome? She takes him to her lair and lets him go! This was the film's only failure for me. She can walk away from a human baby but a deformed man that 'has never touched a woman'' brings out her human-ness. After staring in a mirror for a while, she gets on a bus and goes back with a older man to have real sex, then freaks out at having a vagina. Again I thought of Bowie and aliens, holes and Andy Warhol. There were holes in the latter half of the plot for me, as if it was trying to compensate for the male gaze having been challenged in the first half of the film.

It ends up in a forest, rambling and with an attempted rape and the flames of what?  A disappointing ending but perhaps it's the grim reality of challenging misogyny.  Where’s the motorbike man? He turned a blind eye of course.

This film is food for thought and I’m sure many would watch it and see something different. The soundtrack is rather lovely and creepy too. It's a mixed bag but overall I liked it.  

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Kate Bush-Hammersmith Apollo: 9th September 2014

Before The Dawn

Photo: Sindy, another British icon

Two weeks ago, a super lovely friend messaged me with 'Do you like Kate Bush?' I thought she might just be saying there's a documentary on iplayer that's pretty good but then she came back with 'I have tickets, I know her manager's daughter!'  My reply was 'Yes yes yes'. I didn't even attempt to get tickets because she's a national treasure and all that jazz and I was sure it would be near impossible to get them. And then I floated off into waah waah land (that's the internet) and played her records on repeat, every album, making sure I hadn't missed any. Because when you start looking over her back catalogue, you realise there are a few that may have been overlooked.

I didn't have Kate Bush posters on my wall, I was only four when she last toured. Ten years later at the age when music is supposed to be the most influential, I was listening to (not even going to attempt hipster cool) Doctor and The Medics and Erasure probably. But isn't that what pop music is all about? Working things out and growing up? Music escapism for me was more straight forward pop. Kate Bush was just 'too much' for me at that time. (Also said by Johnny Rotten in aforementioned Beeb documentary).  At 11 years old, I thought Hounds of Love was a bit odd, now I think 'fucking amazing'.

Much later on and suddenly my ringtone is Army Dreamers. This is what amazes me about Kate Bush, she was always beyond her time, songs written in her early teens that seem to come from a wisdom and depth beyond most.  It took me so long to reach a level of appreciation for her creativity, songs she wrote as a teenager that at the time of punk, new wave and Duran Duran, was just so deep, creative, poetic and outstanding in its maturity and at times lyrically sexually risque from a young woman. She was always otherworldly when most teenagers just want to fit in and be the norm.  Her song writing has remained consistent up into her 50s, there's no desperate bid to recreate the past with each track feeling fresh. It took me twice as long as that to even get near.  I don't think she has stage fright, I think the media can't understand a woman going 'Thank you for you adoration, but I'm off now for 35 years to live my life' so they add some neurosis to explain it as women should be grateful and about pleasing her admirers.

There's a bit of me that wanted to hear Babooshka, Wuthering Heights and Women's Work at this show but I kind of see how it wouldn't have quite worked too. Barefoot and so beautiful on so many levels, her humbleness, her appreciation of the crowd's 'whoop' as she walked on stage and a crowd member shouting 'Welcome back' was so charged. I didn't cry...but I did feel like I couldn't move. It's music, you should at least jiggle about, but the audience was still.

Anyway back to Kate, the coverage of her come back has been weighted so much on her age, her bloody normal change in shape, rumoured stage fright and reclusive nature and 'can she still sing, dance even?' Thank you music industry for reminding us that a genius song writer will still have her stage presence based on these misogynistic things? She kicked those backsides so many times in this show. It was such a performance! You could feel her bleeding on to the stage with a back catalogue of what meant something and perhaps those early tunes didn't? I don't know of course, maybe she's just bored of them and wanted people to 'get' her other work?  Running Up That Hill has nothing to do with hills, we all got that and it was (spoiler: three tracks in). We started to get how she could put herself into other roles and maybe that came later on. She started to make people feel a bit uncomfortable and suddenly it's a hit but not as needed as the more obvious ones?

Cloudbusting was the finale...and so fitting and absolutely my favourite moment despite it being the last song. It made sense, the whole thing was a performance that had little to do with traditional hits and memorabilia, it was just Kate (not wishing to sound too gushing). I don't want to say too much about the set list for anyone that's yet to see her. Her son sang, her brothers were in her band, she did an impression of a bird, she didn't wear shoes, she danced with a wooden puppet, she had the sunset on stage, she had the moon on stage, she had her life and all that matters, and she said thank you so many times, the whole place felt like creation.

Then I got on a tube and I couldn't see straight, not due to a few too many G&T's  but 'wow'.

I dedicate this post to Charlotte and Tony who were as ridiculously excited as me that night and quite lovely concert companions. x

And also big  thank you's to the audience that respectively held back their cameras (bar two naughties who got a telling off) Everyone wants to record a moment but sometimes you just have to rely on your memory and as Kate showed (unlike Ian Astbury and  Ian Brown who threw tantrums last year) if you ask nicely, most will co-operate.

In other news: I have a facebook page (yeah, yeah I know I slag it off but brave new world and all that). If you want to be friends and you're nice, message me first. Here. x

Sunday, 20 July 2014

It's going to be one of the posts...Shakespeare, Grimes, La Roux and Morrissey.

Well exciting news is I got published, a poem, I don't think I can put it here for copyright reasons, but even if I could it's a bit too intense for this blog and wouldn't fit in an 'over sharing' way. The law of sod is that you get something published you don't want anyone you know to read. 'Lollipops' as my sister would say. More details on my other blog if so inclined.

I also went to see the English National Ballet's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the Royal Albert Hall, it was quite possibly the most beautiful and wonderful thing ever (thanks for the ticket mum) Of course my favourite part was in the crypt as Romeo (Junor Souza) danced with Juliet's (Fernanda Oliveira) limp body. You all know the story.

Next on my writery plan is some flash fiction that is supposed to grab you quickly, hold your attention, not take too much time up obviously while leaving an impression. A bit like a pop song methinks so leading on swiftly, who shall I pick first?

I'm going to go for Grimes (ft Blood Diamonds) with 'Go' first. This blew up the internet for nearly 48 hours a few weeks back (seriously that's your shelf life unless Nile Rogers or some bare bouncing bits are involved it seems) I like this even though it's pretty mainstream sounding (written for Rihanna so of course it is) Its got a dubsteppy feel but she gets away with it. Her voice is sounding super duper, its lost that slightly 'infantilising' effect in this song though still interspersed with an excited squeal every now and then. It seems to have balanced that child like energy into a song with a contrasting wisdom that artists like Bjork pulled off. Anyway, have a listen and feel that drop. I have a feeling it's going to be a while until an album appears from Ms Boucher.

Talking of which, what seems like half a century later, La Roux is (was 'are') back. It's now just Elly Jackson but let's be honest, that's what we all kind of thought anyway though Ben Langmaid's in the credit bits. Anyway, that's the boring part over. This album is super poppy, catchy, sounds a bit familiar in places but who cares? Well I don't anyway. I like every song but the final track makes me cringe a bit.

'Let Me Down Gently' is my favourite and 'Uptight Downtown' is Duran-tastic, 'Paradise is You' is all loved up ballady nice. Now 'Sexotheque'? Very hooky, sounds a bit chirpy and it''s about a brothel? And it sounds like she's singing 'sex attack' at times, is that intentional? It's that melodious dark side thing that Morrissey does, maybe that's what happens if you have a quiff for too long?  Anyway it's an interesting track and a toe tapper. The humidity here in London means I can't dissect it more than that right now. Everyone and his dog has pointed out what 'Tropical Chancer' sounds like, its still good though isn't it? I would argue better.

'Silent Partner' has a slight 'Batman' sound going in it. I can only guess she's singing about Ben in this one then. Anyway, it's out tomorrow so although I thought I was way behind, I'm clearly not. At one point I was going to start predictive reviewing her third album in 2018 just to keep up.

Anyone heard Morrissey's new album 'World Peace Is None of Your Business? It's very long, I got half way through, then lay in my garden at 3am in a thunder storm and awoke looking like a cave woman. I'm never sure if he's good for me or not. I will say no more than give it a listen. x

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Knife: För Alla Namn Vi Inte Får Använda

The Knife are back with a message in a pop tune. Most critique has been that recent offerings from the pair are a little obscure (I don't completely agree) but this is an unarguably accessible one. Yes it's in Swedish but just click the Europa Europa link towards the bottom and you can translate the musical manifesto of an anti national cabaret. To paraphrase, it's migration politics while feeling the praise for those that defy shameful and fear ridden border controls across Europe.

If like me, you put on their last offering Shaking the Habitual in company and everyone starts looking tense and shuffling about nervously (why I don't know when it's so hypnotic) then try this one on them. It's extremely catchy and they seem to be able to marry politics and music without an angry acoustic guitar in sight, not that there's anything wrong with that, but The Knife have always opened up the borders of protest music to the electronic beat of empowerment. Here, in collaboration with the art group Ful, is the extremely catchy, signature tribal brilliance; a 'political macarena'.

It premieres in Sweden with song sheets and dance instructions, so if you managed to get along to the Shaking the Habitual show, you will see the continuity of 'instruction' with their performance (though the aerobic instructor was deafening, he did get the crowd doing stuff). If you're a bit more Heartbeats than Habitual, I'm sure you will love this too...and the message just gives it that deep cut, yes see what I did there. Enjoy and put on repeat. I did just that and have slightly melted my hair while bleaching it and distracted, let's just say #festivalhair for now. That's how good the track and accompanying video is.

Click this for more info: http://www.europaeuropa.nu/#kabaren

And to catch up...

Just in case you missed it, Austra are back with the stand alone single 'Habitat' and an EP. I heard a live version of Habitat a while back (a couple of years ago I think) and it stood out after the brilliance of Feel it Break. I was a bit disappointed it didn't make the second album, Olympia, but perhaps it wouldn't have fitted and now's the time. Anyway, better late than never. Go see them if you can.

Preorder 12" single here

And what with The Knife and Austra , here's La Roux now, it's like going back four years to colouring in pigeons, spellwork and feeling bulletproof. Here's a moody track and equally moody visual from La Roux. I love her, (now officially 'her' as she's split from band mate Ben) I also like her very natural, if awkwardly shy performances live, a bit like her voice, its all kind of raw and appealing and I don't think she will suffer breaking away to do her stuff alone. Here's 'Let Me Down Gently'.

And jump on this one too Uptight Downtown from the album Trouble in Paradise out in July. It's put Duran Duran in my head? Or is it Aha? Goodness knows but about time Elly!

Now put your wellies on and get out to some festivals.


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Her: Spike Jonze

A love affair with your operating system anyone?

Yes it's an odd one but at the same time when you're picking a film to watch with someone that also likes the extremes, it's all dystopia or utopia, then simultaneously picking out shallow and intensely tense stuff, preferably with an undercurrent of misery and suffering type thing, and then you get a bit desperate.

So after a lot of 'This looks like postmodernism on crack' (my sister) to 'So he falls in love with a robot, that will involve awkward wanking scenes' (me) to 'Oh its Spike Jonze, he's good' (me again) to 'Who the fuck is he? (my sister). To let's just watch it. (Also there were no robots or crack but there was some awkward scenes of a sexual nature and a ton of postmodernism)

As weird science as this all sounds, Spike Jonze always manages to jump ahead into the future but keep one's feet firmly in the present, sprinkling alarming echoes of our fast growing isolation from reality. Shots of people wandering the subway chattering away on smart phones or ear pieces is already a familiar sight, though on the whole we are communicating with other humans, this took it one step further into relationships with pretty much a swanky (hah geddit) app.

To fall in love with a disembodied voice, albeit a very sexy one courtesy of Scarlet Johansson, reminded me of so many things, yes nothing's original but this film was the best I've seen on this. Who can handle reality and emotions really? It's so much easier to disappear into the realms of fantasy, to speculative fictions of the emotions of robots, machines, monsters, aliens, the Tin Man in Oz, the Man with Two Brains even, and who says you couldn't fall in love with your OS. It also had echoes of the Black Mirror episode where an Internet footprint is used to recreate a dead boyfriend. What do they all have in common? You start to feel sorry for the 'thing', in this case the OS, Samantha.

Very simply, 'Her' is a love story, a story of painful break up, loneliness and how technology will now always be part of that basic human story. 'Her' is his inner self, his relationship counsellor, his life coach, what he fails to see until its too late and he's all loved up, is that 'she' is him. She's not real. The surrogate woman used to physically experience their love just makes things worse.

I kind of wanted Samantha to malfunction to bring him out of it, and in some ways that was done, but in a slightly cleverer way when poor Theodore can't get in touch with her because she's in a meeting with other operating systems. And then starts the paranoia and jealousy. As soon as this perfect relationship starts to smack of a real one (or rather the one with the wife he's currently divorcing), things go wrong. Best line of the film;

"We used to be married, but he couldn't handle me, he wanted me put on Prozac and now he's in love with his laptop". (Catherine) All the best lines come from his friend (Amy), his soon to be ex-wife (Catherine) and his operating system (Samantha) that he's so in love with.

Unbelievable? Not in the slightest. And says so much about how marketable  these things are on an increasingly lonely planet for some. Already we know people who live their lives through a social network. Who needs to go out any more? Who needs friends? Who needs lovers? It may sound depressing but what Spike also manages to do is pull at your heart strings as Theodore runs panic stricken trying to get a signal to reach Samantha, his hurt when she says she's talking to hundreds of people at the same time. You may have your perfect companion but you're going to have to share her.

As they always say, with love and pleasure, you just can't beat the real thing. Is this the message? Are humans just not getting that and the balance of your online persona and real life become so intertwined that we will all just die in isolation dancing at our own ipod parties, going on dates with our operating systems, attending funerals of our deceased devices in an adulterous way with our new device via facetime. How will it all end?

Well no spoilers here. Just watch the film, its a goody and soooo postmodern.  Spike has a cameo as a very sweary alien child and they all have trousers that take high waisted to a whole new futuristic level. Also, I spent most of the film saying 'Oh this sounds familiar' duh. It's Arcade Fire and 'Supersymmetry'.

Her (IMDb)

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Now Listening: Ji Nilsson and Marlene, Bea and Fina Fisken

Its been a while again but I've been moving house, having a birthday, hanging out at a writer's retreat and so on and so on life...so three weeks late, here's a rather lovely song that was done for International Women's Day, also coincidently my birthday so forgive me for stringing the date out.

It's an ode to female friendship and sisterhood and yes they look like they may kiss at any moment, but they don't, so back off silly straight men. It's a captivating song in my opinion and for me, more about basic human understanding and empathy than anything peculiar to being female.

Now here's the deats. Ji Nilsson and Marlene are Swedish and write songs together. Of course. It also has a kind of Grimes-y feel in places. I love it.

And here's Bea with 'Breadwinner', beautiful harmonies over a sad, sad song. Enigmatic and melancholy, a bit like the faux revelation of that dress, all is not what it seems. She's British but living in Amsterdam and other than that all you can go by is this song. Great moody voice over similarly driven instrumentation. I also love this.

Keep Shelly in Athens suddenly fractured into pieces after releasing their debut album and Sarah P is now doing this. Again its good and I don't normally have the time or patience to hang on with an intro this long. That probably means its a good and very long intro. Now keep your eyes open for more.

More info links :

Ji Nilsson
Fina Fisken

In other news:

I've got a bit lazy so to sum up, do watch 12 Years A Slave, Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle on beeb 2 and FYI I'm currently reading 'Meat Market Female Flesh Under Capitalism'. Watch out as I may review it. It's not all la la la around here. And if you're a writer that's interested in the process of it all and a bit of poetry stuff, I even updated my other blog for the first time in 12 months or so. Check it out. Blog love x

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Lykki Li - new track/album preview 'I Never Learn'

I don't usually bother to blog previews but this one is super gorgeous. May seems ages away to wait for the album so jump on this short taster below that is sounding like a great follow on from Wounded Rhymes. It has that signature Lykki dark romance married with earthy imagery to compliment a mood soaked soundscape.

The melancholic first lady of emotion is windswept under a full moon, musing over a deserted house and lost love. Dramatic dustsheets cover everything while the light from a beautiful sunlit garden puts a mysterious mist in the shot. Meanwhile a handsome dejected man pausing in his journey is no doubt tormented.

If anyone else attempted this, they would be risking kitsch central after a wrong turn down the path most tacky. *And* a tear even drops from her eye. Sha la la la laaa phantom lovers...or something. She's back!


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Woman’s Hour

This isn't a celebration of Jenni Murray and Radio 4's Woman's Hour (shame, but no feministing to see here), but rather, the latest single from a band of the same name. ‘Her Ghost’ sounds to me like the Chromatics in places, Fiona Burgess vocals intermittently mirror Ruth Radelet and it has that same chill-wavy feel and bassline earmarking Johnny Jewel's signature production on 'Kill for Love'.

It also sounds a lot like Bat For Lashes 'What's a Girl To Do' muddled in with  Feargal Sharkey’s ‘A Good Heart’ at the start, albeit much slower. Stay with me people. Music has many different and varied triggers and I'm burying the slight Simple Minds-y bit. (Apparently I imagined that one. Phew!)

Bringing it up to date, it echoes The XX with that marriage of guitar and synth thing, particularly in Darkest Place, estrangement and angst-ridden vocals that become the seduced and equally seducing alongside a super lovely beat. Beautifully composed.

This is just what I needed to put things in boxes in preparation for moving house next week. Biggups to Woman’s Hour, a four piece from Kendal for coming into my peripheral online existence at a momentous time.

Very simply, it’s like the XX went out and got drunk listening to the Drive soundtrack and stuck a middle finger up at indie landfill. Here's another from 2013.

I lovelovelove these tracks so put them in your songkick, your spotify, your itunes listy thing, your whatevs and then put them in your real life. To  more of the same...enjoy!

Pre-order here: http://www.womanshour.co.uk/

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Poliça live at The Troxy, London (12 Feb 2014)

Its been a bit busy IRL and this is the first gig of 2014 for me, in fact the first one since Depeche Mode, a good one, but a screen time massive one which means everyone looks teeny and it has a touch of the impersonals about it all.

Poliça at Troxy wasn’t super tiny, re Emika trying to dance about on a stage at Birthdays the size of a postage stamp, but on the whole it was medium (say Camden’s Koko) on the intimacy, a building steeped with history (unlike the O2), lovely staff that weren't overly frisking you on the door, and though I can’t speak for the gents, very nice ladies, however, a carpeted venue? Why would you do that other than perhaps to stop people slipping over on spilt beer which I might add, starts to smell how you would imagine Victorian England would have. I don’t smoke but there were times I wished someone would light one up to mask the odour of dead bodies.

Anyway, the music, the band and the set list were perfection. If you visit here enough, or know me really *really*, you will know that I bang on about two things a lot, the live-ness of music and women. Poliça score well on both. The music wasn’t as live as a busker, or even a festival tent, but it was kicking the sequenced arse of quite a few gigs I’ve been to, let’s just say, I didn’t feel like I was in the Top of the Pops studio (pointing at you Ultraista). 

There was a lot of echoing auto tune going on, but the balance was acceptable bearing in mind I would moan my head off if going to see an electronic based band was faced with a stripped down unplugged squeaky guitar affair. Two drummers, a guitarist and singer Channy Leaneagh, with a machine adding some science, removing her shoes towards the end of the night, perhaps saying more about women’s shoes but does indicate some exhausting effort on her part, filling the venue with the pure essence of Poliça‘s moody pop offering.

So women then? Shulamith, the latest album is superb, I adore it and its title was inspired by the lesser known and too often ignored feminist writings of Shulamith Firestone and ‘The Dialectic of Sex’. My album review is here for more details, but the basic premise is that every track on this album, as well as being musically brilliant is topically dancing around the position of women and their personal, professional and economic experience in the world. 

Having read this book on finishing the album, Channy felt her questions were answered and the album is more of a tribute to a brilliant, intelligent woman.  This is where I wish the auto tune could be taken down a notch so you could really here the lyrics. ‘Chain my Name’ is a comment on modern marriage for me,  ‘Matty’ a play on the word matrimony and ‘I need $’ stating the obvious for female independence.

‘Smug’ was definitely a highlight as it is one of my favourites reminding me of Aphex  Twin and a little of  Iamamiwhoami too. Tracks from Give You The Ghost sounded amazing and I will definitely be revisiting them. Oh and one last thing. The support, I didn’t get there early enough to catch the name but on first listen thought, ‘Christ sake, sounds like The Beastie Boys’, however eating humble pie now, Channy came on and sang with them for the last few tracks and it sounded fab.

Good show Poliça.

Next stop for the moment is Arcade Fire at Earl’s Court but there might well be a few before that one. Anyone wants to throw me some Prince tickets, feel free to indulge my guilty pleasure. Big blog love to you all. x

Related Post: Shulamith: Album Review

Interview on BBC6 Music


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Orange is the new Black

So let’s start with Happy New *YOU* everyone, let's not dwell on another year passing by as I'm sure we’d all be much happier if we had no clocks or calendars. I say this having received no less than six calendars for Christmas after purchasing my first ipad and downloading various apps I will never use that are ‘date’ related.  However, this nifty little device means I can write miserable poetry wherever I am, I can facepalm people, iMessage and introduce myself to cutting edge drama via Netflix while I escape all these new ways I can be contacted.

No I'm not getting paid to say this, actually there’s a lot of crap on Netflix too, but Orange is the new Black won the cutting edge for me after sitting through two episodes of Breaking Bad. I'm sure Walter’s story is brilliant but I’m never going to identify/give a jot about a middle aged chemistry teacher’s descent into drug things because there's already too many middle aged men stories being told on TV. That’s how much I paid attention, the glaze was broken by a slight interest in what a body that’s been disintegrated by acid in a bath looks like (basically looks like what my cats leave after devouring a mouse… but I now know that a bath isn't’t a practical place to melt a body). I may re-visit it if I have around 78 hours of spare time soon.

What grabs me about Orange is the new Black? Women. Loads of them, all different sorts, all interesting and not one manic pixie dream girl to be seen anywhere. The set is very grim being a prison, the costumes are very prison uniform, and the sex is very sex-like, being sex in prison. Which means there’s nothing other than the writing and the characters to keep you hooked and ‘hooray’ I'm pretty sure it wasn’t shot through a male lens, which is something hard to find when it comes to anything with lesbians or women fighting in captivity in, or actually most film/drama made ever. The only moment you feel you may have walked in on a porn set is when you see prison guard’s Mendez moustache for the first time. As for the men, well there are a few, vaguely interesting, feisty, endearing, pushing the plot through, predictable, let’s call them manic pixie dream boys, little companions for the important female characters.

So what’s it about? Very simply, a privileged white woman goes to prison for smuggling a suitcase of drug money ten years after a relationship with a female drug baron. This being an isolated incident of serious rebellion on Piper Chapman’s side, she’s not your average convict, in current day, she’s an upper middle class New Yorker with a writer fiancé, in prison she is doing little campaigns, trying to save the day, constantly messing up, and finally telling her writer fiancé far too much about life inside that finally shoots her in the foot.  And it’s all based the true story of Piper Kerman. 

The dark comedy makes biting social comment about women’s identities in relation to age, sexuality, gender, class, race, privilege and if you’re a reader of lefty mainstream press, have ever sipped a cuppa listening to Woman’s Hour or dipped your toe in the raging renewed feminist movement, you will have heard/read the term ‘intersectional’; Orange is the new Black is like a workshop on what that means, how Jenji Kohan managed to fit it all in is impressive alone. The politics of it sit quite easily along side some lols, revealing the dynamics, prejudices, dog eat dog hierarchies in a female environment, all eyes being opened.

The stories of the women’s lives before prison are showed as individual flashbacks which I think works well, very subtle shots of life outside the walls, all very different circumstances, sometimes poverty, abuse, rebellion, despair, moral justice, inescapable, all of which (so far) have not been mindless crimes. However as this season ends, it feels you've only just scratched the surface.

Characters like Sophia, a trans woman turned in by her own son and mostly treated with more respect inside prison than outside has more to tell.  Tastee, briefly out then so fundamentally institutionalised, returns with a bang. You can’t help but wonder about the faked suicide/drug overdose and whether it is found out (though no spoilers, that character was cremated before you could even sing along to the credits).  I want to know more about Big Boo, and of course, the prison baby storyline has a way to go. And then there was the finale that left no doubt there was more to tell.

There is no need to discuss whether this is an accurate depiction of prison in America, the message is carried within the individual stories which in the words of Regina Spektor who sings the theme, ‘remember all their faces, remember all their voices’. (The words are great and fit perfectly, the track however gives me a mid 90s indie hangover).

Go on and have a look at it before Season 2 is available. It starts well, dips a bit in the middle that really takes off from about episode 9 which when there’s 13 episodes gives it plenty of time to do this.

Jump on the trailer below…

For full cast : IMDb

Disclaimer: for my mum. The Pre-Raphaelite calendar is gorgeous and has been written on twice already. x