Reviews

My two cents…

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Tankus the Henge at Passing Clouds

Tankus the Henge are a rambunctious explosion of sound, a chaotic cyclone of influences ripping through the backstreets of New Orleans, Argentine tango halls and gypsy caravans of Eastern Europe.

 

Zero Dark Thirty should be renamed Kill Bill Laden

I watched Zero Dark Thirty last night with increasing unease and disgust. And not just because of the brutal torture scenes. My real problem with this Oscar and Golden Globe nominated “historical drama”, which has won near-universal critical acclaim, is that it is essentially little more than a cheap revenge flick that has pulled the wool over the audience’s eyes as easily as its heroes pulled sacks over terrorists’ heads. Kill Bill Laden, if you will. 

 

The Fear Factory

When I received my review copy of Spirit Level Film’s latest documentary, The Fear Factory, through my letterbox a few days ago, I had little idea what to expect. A few seconds in, as the ominous music begins to play and the image of a foetus looms into view accompanied by the voiceover telling us that young offenders will be growing up in gaol and that we are heading for the largest prison population that any country could imagine having, it became clear to me that this was a film that was attempting to ask a number of crucial questions of deep moral and social significance. But did it answer them satisfactorily?

 

Torchwood: Children of Earth

Creating a successful spin-off of a popular television series – a precarious balancing act between pleasing fans of the original and building a distinct brand – is a notoriously hit and miss affair. For every Star Trek: The Next Generation there’s a Joey. The anagrammatical Torchwood is Russell T. Davies’s attempt to explore more adult themes in the Doctor Who universe starring one of The Doctor’s most popular companions, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), and his crack team of alien investigators. The first two series made for enjoyable enough watching – if lacking in plot quality next to the parent programme – but they always left me feeling uncomfortable. For one, the exploration of adult themes through the lens of essentially childish story motifs never really convinced me. Nor, at the end of the day, could I buy into Cardiff as the centre of earth-shattering paranormal events. Perhaps it’s my limitation as a viewer, but if I’m going to accept a demon-spitting rift in time and space, I think it should be somewhere other than Wales.

 

Glastonbury 2009

There are times I wonder why I do it. Standing for hours in the queue at a remote train station in the depths of rural Somerset hauling what feels like the unfortunate result of an unseemly encounter between Jabba the Hutt and Dibley’s eponymous vicar on my back. Waking up to the sound of thunder and pouring rain, unzipping my tent and squelching through the mud to long-drop bogs of eternal stench that have made few advances since the Middle Ages. Crawling back to my tent at 7am, partied out and hoping to get a few hours kip only to be roasted (barely) alive in my little canvas oven by a resurgent sun. This year was my seventh Glastonbury in a row and there are times I wonder why I do it. But those times are few and far between.

 

No God But God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam

It is hard to believe that it has been over four months since I stood outside London’s Kings Cross station, watching a scene of carnage unfold, the likes of which I could scarcely believe extended from behind the headlines and television screens. It is harder still to believe that it has been over four years since New York’s skyline was irrevocably altered and al Quaeda became a household name. Now, as I write, Paris braces itself for another night of violence, as the Western World watches the ‘barbarians’ assaulting its gates. For many in the West, particularly in America, Islam is seen as a religion of, and I cite Kilroy’s ever tactful comments of the Arab people, “suicide bombers, limb amputators and women repressors.” It is against this backdrop that Reza Aslan offers his timely, compelling and thoroughly researched challenge to this view in ‘No God but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam.’

 

Eastern Haze 2007

The West: Arthurian legends and legendary cider; sun, stone circles and summer festivals. The East: cow shit and concrete; Lowestoft high street and Lil’ Chris. Hardly a fair comparison. But with a string of new festivals popping up in East Anglia over the last couple of years, it seems that the times they are a changing.

 

A soundtrack to my life

It was Badly Drawn Boy who, for me, put his lyrically inspired finger on it with the line: “Songs are never quite the answer, just a soundtrack to a life.” Only one song has ever saved my life, and it wasn’t for the reasons to which thousands of teenagers on rooftops or with razor blades might ascribe. In the crush right at the front REM’s Glastonbury set, being buffeted from sweaty pillar to drunken post, when falling down means you’re never getting up again; a slow, lighter waving song like ‘Everybody Hurts’ was my only escape from being trampled underfoot. And whilst music may not have turned my life around, as it has some people’s, it has often put into words some of my strongest ideas, values and passions. Not an answer to these, perhaps, but a soundtrack nonetheless.

 

Original Pirate Material: Arrow Classic Rock

Arrow is an extended acronym for All Rock and Roll Oldies, and it does just what it says on the tin. You’ll find it nestled in airwaves at 675 AM; if you want classic rock, tune in and drop out. It’s a Dutch station, with all the usual inter-song drivel from faces probably best suited to radio, but with one little perk: the vast majority of us on this island won’t have a bloody clue what they’re saying. Spending an hour in the company of Arrow’s airwaves is like pretending to be your parents when they were your age. But kind of middle-aged at the same time. So that leaves those of us listening from behind the wheel to sit back, perhaps not relax (apparently there are laws against that in this country) and let those groovy vibes take us on a long strange trip through the best of the 60′s and 70′s. Holland’s given us the sex and drugs, now here’s their rock n’ roll.