Saturday 25 May 2013

Brixham bound

The glacially-slow pace of this 'ere blog is about to crawl to a halt as we're just about to head down to Brixham in Devon for a week. This means my already ludicrously-late looks at Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Name Of The Doctor will be even further delayed. Anyway, a week in sunny
( hopefully! ) Devon is just what the, er,  doctor ordered and I hope to bring back some lovely pics for your viewing pleasure. See you later, alligators!

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Farewell to the sidemen...

There have been some sad announcements over the last couple of days from the world of Rock 'n' Roll. Former Spiders From Mars bass-player Trevor Bolder died yesterday at the early age of 62. Bolder played on David Bowie's breakthrough albums of his "Glam" period from 1971-1973 and was an integral part of the Spiders, managing to be both hard-rockin' and nonchalant at the same time... with some awesome sideburns. Like the rest of the band he wasn't treated amazingly well by Bowie, who dissolved the Spiders with no warning at his "farewell" Hammersmith Odeon gig in 1973, but Bolder did go on to have a later ( if lesser ) career with Uriah Heep.
I've been a Bowie fan for most of my life ( except for a short period when my then-neighbours would play The Laughing Gnome at ear-shredding volume at 3 in the morning... which kinda put me off him for a while ) and  -  regardless of all his other great music  -  it's always the Ziggy / Aladdin Sane period that holds the most magic for me. Bolder was ( along with Woody Woodmansey and the late Mick Ronson ) a big part of that. Thanks, Trevor...

Unfortunately, the news of Bolder's death came hot on the heels of similarly sad news from Germany...

Ray Manzarek, keyboard player and founder member of The Doors had passed away at the age of 74. Manzarek was a highly talented and respected musician whose long keyboard fantasias and distinctive Vox Continental organ sound defined the Doors' music as much as Jim Morrison's lyrics and vocals. ( John Densmore and Robby Krieger were no slouches either... )

The Doors are, in contrast to my comments about Bowie, a band I came to appreciate relatively late in life  -  just like Led Zeppelin or the Beach Boys. When I was younger I quite liked some of their more famous songs ( Light My Fire, Break On Through ) but I wasn't keen on the long keyboard solos and I thought Morrison was too pretentious. Now I realise those two things are part of what make The Doors such a classic band! I just needed to properly listen to the band... and loosen up a bit :-)
After only owning a Doors' Greatest Hits I recently went out and bought the classic album LA Woman, which has been a revelation  -  so much great music! So I found it quite sad to hear of Mr. Manzarek's passing... just as I was beginning to really appreciate his band's music.

Monday 20 May 2013

Recent gigs: Peace / Sex Pistols Experience

I had hoped to go to a couple of gigs this weekend but unfortunately didn't make it after going back to work part-time had left me feeling far too tired. But I'm now going to cast my eyes back on April when I managed to get out and see a few bands... and had a bloody great time. After the triumphant Dexy's gig at Gloucester's Guildhall Arts Centre it was a mere eight days until I was back in that venue, for a very different show. I was there with my friend Tom ( of The Sensitive Bore fame ) to see up-and-coming Birmingham bands Peace and Superfood.
And very impressive they were too. Superfood are an extremely promising band, heavily indebted to Britpop ( especially Blur ) and obviously still inexperienced... but very talented. For a support band in a small venue they went down amazingly well with an audience that was equal parts teenage indie kids and curious, older gig-goers like me. I spoke to the band's guitarist after the show and he seemed knocked out by the reaction. He'd better get used to it...

Peace themselves were fantastic: a very tight, competent band mashing up Britpop, Shoegazing and Psychedelia with some memorable tunes and an overwhelming peace 'n' love vibe  -  of course! All the great songs from their album In Love ( album of the year? ) were given an airing, with the poppier stuff like Lovesick sounding almost feral when played live. And the crowd went nuts. Peace are clearly heading for the big time  -  and an appearance on last week's Later... With Jools Holland will certainly help with that.

You can read my full gig review from Louder Than War here...

And two days before the Peace gig we took a trip down to Bristol's Fleece to see top Punk tribute band The Sex Pistols Experience, supported by my mates, the mighty Chinese Burn. "We" in this case were myself, Sarah and our friends Jacqui and Caz  -  all out for a night of rock 'n' roll mayhem... as the next photo shows :-)
 ( This is how exciting it is backstage: I don't think Jacqui's even awake... )

Although there's some question about the validity of tribute bands, it has to be said that the Sex Pistols Experience are good at what they do: aping the sounds, mannerisms and voices of a great band with almost supernatural accuracy. It can descend into an almost cartoon-like state at times but they always keep the joint rocking. "Johnny Rotter" in particular is spookily similar to his gobby inspiration on stage, but a friendly, softly-spoken Northerner offstage. The band went down a storm with the Fleece's mohican-sporting audience, as did the boys from The Burn...
Because I'd been away from the gig scene for so long and missed The Burn's recent support-slot with Stiff Little Fingers, it was good to see them in action again and catch up with some fellow fans after what seemed a very long time. I went down the front with Caz and a few others... but got a bit battered. I definitely don't have the strength I used to :-) And, speaking of "battered", Glenn dedicated their cover of Beat On The Brat to me, saying it was good to see me back. And I even got a round of applause! Cheers, mate!
As before you can read my full review of this gig from Louder Than War here...

Saturday 18 May 2013

Doctor Who: Series 7 Catch-up

If anyone out there is still reading the ludicrously infrequent postings on this 'ere blog, they'll have noticed that I'm waaaay behind with my Doctor Who reviews.
( As well as everything else, to be fair. ) It's not that I'm losing interest in the show or, indeed, the reviewing process but I've been very short on energy recently, due to my recent return to work. I'm only working half-days at the moment but even that is sapping all my strength  -  so much so that I tend to come home in the afternoons and go straight to bed. Not much time for blogging, then! Hopefully this will improve as I make a fuller return to what we laughingly call "real life"...but it may take some time. I also have some film and gig reviews to post on here too when I can get sorted. But, for now, just a few thoughts on some recent Doctor Who episodes, ahead of tonight's series finale, and presented ( in my usual, annoying manner ) in reverse order...

Nightmare In Silver:
Neil Gaiman's much-anticipated follow-up to the multi-award-winning The Doctor's Wife turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. It was certainly good to see the Cybermen return as a far more credible threat than they've been in recent years  -  their pathetic appearance in Closing Time probably being their all-time low point. The sleek, new design was a definite success, harking back to some classic 1960s Cyber-looks while boasting some cool new elements  -  the built-in gun, the exposed steel spine. However, they weren't on screen enough for my liking, being reduced to tin soldiers while the Doctor played mind-games with the Cyber-Planner infesting his consciousness. And... weren't they supposed to be silent killers in this story? After all the pre-show talking-up of that point it was disappointing to hear the old pneumatic hiss and stomping of the Cybus model return.
There were some genuinely successful elements to this story: the Cybermen emerging from their tomb, Matt Smith's turning-on-a-sixpence acting as he flipped between dual roles, the well-realised dilapidated theme park setting. But that was almost balanced out by the virtually-pointless inclusion of Clara's two young charges, the lack of suspense and the criminal misuse of the guest cast... except for Warwick Davis who was quietly affecting as Porridge. I'll give this...

Three 1/2 Out Of Five Bow Ties ( or discarded Cybermites )

The Crimson Horror:
Mark Gatiss' second script this series and the one presumably closest to his heart as it features some very League Of Gentlemen-style black humour as well as Victorian grotesqueries reminiscent of his Lucifer Box novels. This episode was just pure fun, from the incongruities of Strax and co, to the Carry On Screaming vibe of the Crimson Horror itself, from Matt Smith's Frankenstein Monster impression, to the icky revelation of Mr. Sweet's true nature. The cast gave it their all with Smith's "Northern" accent being a delight and the overly-cheerful mortuary attendant standing out amongst the guest actors. The episode belonged, of course, to mother and daughter duo Diana Rigg and Rachel Stirling as insane factory-owner Mrs. Gillyflower and her blind, unloved daughter. They were clearly having a ball playing these characters and that was communicated to the audience.
( On a purely personal note I was interested to see one of the characters was called Mr. Thursday. Possibly a reference to this blog's "patron saint" GK Chesterton and his Victorian fantasy/horror novel The Man Who Was Thursday? I'm sure Mr. Gatiss would be aware of Mr. Thursday... )

Four Out Of Five Bow Ties ( or prehistoric blood-slugs )

Journey To The Centre Of The Tardis:
TBH I was concerned when I realised this episode was written by Stephen Thompson, the man behind Series 6's damp pirate story The Curse Of The Black Spot. He has also worked with The Moff on Sherlock, writing last season's The Reichenbach Fall, which was, by contrast, an intricately-plotted, shocking cliffhanger. Could he replicate that success for Nu Who? Unfortunately, no...

This tale of the Doctor and an unscrupulous gang of outer-space salvage merchants hunting through the disabled Tardis for a missing Clara should have been so much better. As it was, we endured interminable wanderings through corridors ( which didn't really have any Time Lord uniqueness about them ) with only the occasional view at anything more interesting within the Tardis' depths. A quick view of a swimming-pool here... a few seconds in a library there. The chance to finally see more of the modern day Tardis than just the console room should really have been a magical trip into the underworld. Instead it was more like a trudge through a muddy underpass. The revelation of the Eye Of Harmony and the exploding Tardis engines were fine moments, but they weren't enough. If only we could have seen something like the MC Esher inspired poster above...
There were some lovely moments between Matt and Jenna Louise which certainly helped ease the pain, and the "time zombies" lurking in the Tardis were very creepy, if poorly-rationalised. Just don't start me on the intergalactic rag 'n' bone men... old man Steptoe must be turning in his grave...

Two 1/2  Out Of Five Bow Ties ( or Plot Reset Buttons )

So, that's almost it for an alarmingly patchy second half of the series. Here's hoping tonight's finale The Name Of The Doctor can live up to its hype...

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Sudeley Castle

Photo: Ruins at Sudeley Castle
Taking advantage of the recent, beautiful weather, Sarah and I went for a drive around the Cotswolds on Bank Holiday Monday, with no real destination in mind. We thought we might go to one of the tourist-trap towns up there like Bourton-On-The-Water or Stow-On-The-Wold but instead headed back down the hill to Winchcombe and Sudeley Castle. Here are just a few photos from Sudeley, taken with my phone because I'd stupidly forgotten the camera. It's a lovely place, a mixture of stately home, old ruins and beautiful gardens. Well worth a visit.
Photo: Tulips at Sudeley Castle

Photo: Tythe Barn at Sudeley Castle

Soundtrack: Light Up Gold by Parquet Courts
( A cracking NYC Punk album which I picked up on impulse the other day. A mixture of Television, The Strokes and The Modern Lovers, with even a hint of the Dead Kennedys too... )

Friday 3 May 2013

Dexy's at Gloucester Guildhall 13/04/13

A few weeks back I finally saw one of my favourite bands of all time play live at my favourite venue  -  the mighty Kevin Rowland and his revitalised Dexy's ( minus the "Midnight Runners" ) at Gloucester's Guildhall Arts Centre. This was the first gig I'd been to after finishing my radiotherapy and, even though I was still feeling under the weather, I was determined to go. I'd already missed a couple of gigs I had booked tickets for  -  local boys Chinese Burn and Noise Agents supporting Stiff Little Fingers at the Guildhall, and The Gaslight Anthem at the Bristol O2 Academy  -  which was annoying, but couldn't be helped. Dexy's, however, were a special case. Their music had meant so much to me over the last 30 years and I'd never had the chance to see them until now.
All things considered, I did pretty well. I dragged Sarah and my mate Kev along as well for moral support. Kev isn't a great live music fan but had a good time and I'm certainly glad he came along.
Dexy's were amazing! A highly theatrical performance of recent album One Day I'm Going To Soar, packed with the patented Dexy's brand of emotionally-charged Soul and Folk music. Main man Kevin Rowland ( it was all about the Kevins! ) was wonderful  -  still a totally unique, passionate frontman with his fantastic voice as powerful and moving as ever. After playing the album in its entirety Dexy's came back for an oldies set which, I have to admit, left me a bit emotional. I never thought I'd see Dexy's play live and to hear such awesome songs as Until I Believe In My Soul and This Is What She's Like played so beautifully... well, I was overwhelmed.
Apart from our seemingly never-ending PC problems ( I'm typing this on Sophie's Netbook ) the main reason this review's taken so long to appear is that I was waiting for my full report on the gig to be published on the Louder Than War website. They've been having their own technical difficulties but things seem to be sorted now. I also have two other gig reviews in the pipeline for the site which I will post here when they're running at LTW.
My full Dexy's review can be read ( should you want to, of course... ) here:


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