Archives for March 2013

Thom Yorke’s Far From Solo Project an Impressive Hit.

atoms_amok_packshot_5Atoms For Peace is the group that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke put togeth­er in 2009 so that he could tour his recent­ly released solo album Era­sure. And their debut album, AMOK, is basi­cal­ly a fol­low-up to that.

Atoms For Peace are made up of long time Radio­head pro­duc­er and mul­ti-instru­men­tal­ist Nigel Godrich, Flea, the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers and drum­mers Joey Waronker and Mau­ro Refosco.

The lat­ter is a Brazil­ian musi­cian who has toured for years with David Byrne, and he became one of the pio­neers of what came to be known as World Music when he set up his record label Lua­ka Bop in 1990.

The sub­se­quent arrival into our liv­ing rooms of the sounds of Latin Amer­i­ca, Africa and Asia was one of the hap­pi­er off­shoots of glob­al­iza­tion. And it’s that sound and his pres­ence that rever­ber­ate, hap­pi­ly, through­out this album.

AMOK is basi­cal­ly the slight­ly more melod­ic sound­ing album that we expect­ed to get with Era­sure but didn’t. Most of the more recent Radio­head albums have been dri­ven by the con­flict between con­fronta­tion­al, twitchy dig­i­tal beats and the seduc­tive deliv­ery of Yorke’s melodies. But all of that takes on a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent feel here as each of the tracks are gov­erned by a com­mand­ing afrobeat.

brian enoIndeed, from the moment that the first track kicks in, it’s impos­si­ble not to hear in the twang of the lead gui­tar the sounds of west Africa, and specif­i­cal­ly those of Fela Kuti. And the album that fol­lows is a won­der­ful mix­ture of nerdy indie intro­spec­tion fil­tered through infec­tious and unin­hib­it­ed glob­al rhythms.

Yorke has said that it was the impres­sion­is­tic song writ­ing of Byrne that inspired (and slight­ly intim­i­dat­ed) him on this album. But what you hear here more than any­thing else is echoes of the col­lab­o­ra­tion that Byrne and Eno pro­duced in the 1980s with My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts. And AMOK is a gen­tle com­pan­ion piece to that, with­out in any way being overt­ly deferential.

It gets a slight­ly grudg­ing 6.9 from the boys from Pitch­fork here. Which isn’t bad. But doesn’t real­ly do jus­tice to quite how enjoy­able the album is. Under­stat­ed, yes. But mem­o­rably so.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you post­ed on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!


About Elly”, Yet Another Superb Iranian Film.

2009_about_elly_0011After the huge suc­cess of Asghar Farhadi’s A Sep­a­ra­tion (2011), view­ers in the West have now been giv­en a chance to catch up with the film he made before it, About Elly (’09).

A Sep­a­ra­tion was Farhadi’s fifth film, and was qui­et­ly bril­liant. Unsur­pris­ing­ly it swept the boards, win­ning the Acad­e­my Award for Best For­eign Lan­guage film in 2011 as well a Berlin’s pres­ti­gious Gold­en Bear, and was reviewed by me ear­li­er here.

About Elly is yet fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion that Iran is one of the most excit­ing cen­tres for cin­e­ma in the world — you can see the trail­er here. Film mak­ers like Farha­di and Jafar Panahi are spear­head­ing a sec­ond wave who have now arrived to sup­ple­ment what was going on there in the 80s and 90s. You can read about that in my review of Panahi’s This Is Not A Film here. Who by the way is pre­sum­ably still under house arrest there. 

This Is Not A FilmAbout Elly’s open­ing 20 min­utes or so mean­der along in an appar­ent­ly sleepy fash­ion. Three or four pairs of mid­dle class Ira­ni­ans have trav­elled to the coast for a hol­i­day break. But then out of the blue, some­thing hap­pens. And then we and they spend the rest of the film try­ing to piece togeth­er what it was.

It’s not a thriller though. It’s a small, per­son­al dra­ma, in which the ten­sion aris­es from the lit­tle lies that the friends begin telling each oth­er as a result of the event that they are all try­ing to unravel.

FRENCH211-2Not a mil­lion miles from the ter­rain cov­ered by Anto­nioni in L’Avven­tu­ra, though with­out the lat­ter’s for­mal rigour and aus­tere beau­ty. Rather, as with A Sep­a­ra­tion, it’s clos­er in tone to Bergman. Farha­di is less inter­est­ed in form and space, and choses instead to immerse him­self in the world of his char­ac­ters and the sto­ries that enfold them. 

And once again, those kind of com­par­isons are ful­ly mer­it­ed. About Elly is a riv­et­ing, engross­ing and at once beguil­ing sto­ry. And Farhadi’s abil­i­ty to reel you in by with­hold­ing sto­ry points until the very last moment makes him one of the most excit­ing film mak­ers in world cinema.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music.

Bryan Ferry’s New Album is a Note Perfect Love Letter to the Cotton Club.

UnknownThe idea behind the new Bryan Fer­ry album, The Jazz Age is like­ly to strike you in one of two ways. Either you’ll think it the most sur­pris­ing but plain­ly inspired idea for an album imag­in­able. Or, well I can’t real­ly think of an “or”. 

What’s he’s done is to have a root around his back cat­a­logue of Roxy Music and Bryan Fer­ry clas­sics, and to re-record them, re-imag­ine them actu­al­ly, as 1920s ear­ly Cot­ton Club-era jazz numbers.

So songs like Do The Strand, Love Is The Drug and Vir­ginia Plain are stripped of their vocals, glam gui­tars and any­thing at all even remote­ly mod­ern, and re-styled as the sort of thing you might have heard from a young Louis Arm­strong or Duke Elling­ton in one of those clubs in Harlem that would soon be all the rage in the 1930s. 

1454108613_b1cb907b3cWhat you get instead is the sound of horns. This is the sort of record, you feel as you lis­ten to it, that would have inspired the likes of Char­lie Park­er, Miles Davis and John Coltrane to pick up an instru­ment for the first time, and blow into it. 

Metic­u­lous­ly record­ed in pris­tine mono, it is above and beyond all else the sound of Gats­by, the dri­est of Mar­ti­nis and prelap­sar­i­an elegance.

And yet, buried beneath this unim­peach­ably authen­tic sound of vin­tage Harlem, you can just about make out the shape of songs you know from a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent con­text. From a dif­fer­ent cen­tu­ry in fact. 

It’s qui­et­ly intox­i­cat­ing. And you can get a taster of it from the video they made for Do The Strand, here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion  right or below and I shall keep you post­ed on all the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Majestic “Cloud Atlas” Soars.

cloud-atlas-movie-poster-imagesThe luke­warm, almost embar­rassed reviews that Cloud Atlas has been get­ting are, to put it mild­ly, baf­fling. It is in every sense of the word a won­der to behold.

It’s easy to see why one might approach it with an air of scep­ti­cism. First, there’s the cast. Tom Han­ks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Jim Broadbent. 

Then there’s the sprawl­ing nature of the nar­ra­tive. Par­al­lel sto­ries set in six dif­fer­ent time frames; on a 19th cen­tu­ry sea voy­age, in 1930s Eng­land, 1970s San Fran­cis­co, con­tem­po­rary Lon­don, a Blade Run­ner-esqe Seoul in 2144, and in a post apoc­a­lyp­tic, stone age future world.

And then there’s the fact that it is direct­ed by three dif­fer­ent peo­ple, Andy and – now – Lana Wachows­ki, and Tom Tyk­w­er. All three of whom have had a mixed record of late. 

v-for-vendetta-page-162464The for­mer pair con­quered the world with The Matrix in 1999. After the inevitable and inevitably dis­ap­point­ing sequels (both in ’03), they redeemed them­selves with the sur­re­al­ly over­looked V For Vendet­ta. But they fol­lowed that with Speed Rac­er.

Tyk­w­er con­quered the indie world with Run Lola Run in 1998. But Heav­en (’02) and Per­fume (’06) were curi­ous­ly ill defined. And The Inter­na­tion­al (’09) was lit­tle more than com­pe­tent. And starred Clive Owen. Real­ly?

So a degree of sus­pi­cion when approach­ing Cloud Atlas was per­fect­ly under­stand­able — you can see the trail­er here. How any­one could cling on to that scep­ti­cism after the open­ing ten min­utes though is beyond me. I spent the rest of the film wait­ing for it to sink into what I pre­sumed would soon be inevitable chaos. But it nev­er hap­pened. It’s a won­der to behold from start to finish.

Han­ks, Berry, Grant (espe­cial­ly) and Broad­bent have nev­er been bet­ter, and are joined by Hugo Weav­ing, the frankly edi­ble Ben Whishaw and Susan Saran­don, all of whom inhab­it their mul­ti­ple roles with com­pelling ease. 

halle_berry_sareeThere is unsur­pris­ing­ly a minor blot on the mul­ti­lay­ered copy­book. Tom Han­ks’ thank­ful­ly fleet­ing stab at a Dublin accent is to say the least remark­able. Come back Tom and Nicole, all is for­giv­en. And there are per­haps one or two sur­plus lines where char­ac­ter muse redun­dant­ly on déjà vu.

But that aside, the whole thing hangs togeth­er with an impres­sive, indeed infec­tious cohe­sion. And the big themes on the evils of prej­u­dice and greed, and the lib­er­at­ing pow­er and uni­fy­ing poten­tial of the arts are deft­ly han­dled. Instead of hec­tor­ing and annoy­ing, the result­ing film sweeps you along and up.

More than any­thing else, this is a film. It’s fan­tas­ti­cal­ly tac­tile. And for once, the dig­i­tal effects and CGI are used spar­ing­ly, and in ser­vice to the sto­ry. So if at all you can, go and see it in the cin­e­ma. It’s majestic.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!

How Fantastic are the New Carlsberg Ads?!

horse-manure-002Most ads are mes­mer­i­cal­ly dull, jaw-drop­ping­ly tedious and unsul­lied by any­thing that could be mis­tak­en, how­ev­er remote­ly, for an idea. So how refresh­ing (pun intend­ed!) are the new Carls­berg ads?!

If ever there were a beer in need of being rebrand­ed, it was sure­ly Carls­berg! Some of you will prob­a­bly remem­ber that bizarre ad of theirs from back in the day.

A man walks down a cor­ri­dor, but stops to answer the phone he hears ring­ing in a room. Turns out it’s the Carls­berg Cus­tomer Com­plaints Depart­ment — you can see it here.

That’s hard­ly the sort of thing you want peo­ple to see in your ad! If any­thing, you should be telling them that when they drink Carls­berg, they won’t have any­thing to com­plain about at all!

But worse is to come. The ad con­cludes with an end­line that says, “Carls­berg; prob­a­bly the best larg­er in the world.”

Prob­a­bly! Any of the more expe­ri­enced ad men will tell you that you should real­ly steer away from words like “prob­a­bly”. “Def­i­nite­ly” would have been much stronger.

That same ambi­gu­i­ty was all over one of their more recent cam­paigns. “Carls­berg don’t do…” it went, and then they showed you all sorts of things that Carls­berg didn’t do. Like hol­i­days, apart­ments, the list was end­less. How neg­a­tive is that?! Don’t tell us what Carls­berg does­n’t do! Tell us some of the things that it does, like refresh­ing the parts that oth­er beers can­not reach!

And they fin­ished with that hope­less­ly defen­sive end­line, again! Prob­a­bly the best larg­er in the world!

Calls-for-a-CarlsbergWell as the fel­la said, if it’s broke, fix it. So it’s won­der­ful­ly refresh­ing (there it is again!) to see the much more pos­i­tive ads that they’ve now come out with. 

The first one appeared on our screens last sum­mer. It gen­tly ref­er­ences an obscure indie film from the 60s star­ring Steve McQueen. A man is sen­tenced to life in a health spa, but he fash­ions an escape, a great one if you will, and is reward­ed with a crate (ged­it!!) of Carlsberg. 

And the new end­line that it now fin­ish­es with? “That calls for a Carls­berg!”.

Thank God! That dread­ful dif­fi­dence has been replaced with firm, man­ly assertive­ness. Would it be hyper­bole to sug­gest that it is to ads what Steve McQueen was to method acting?

spartacus-movie-image-1The sec­ond, in what I hope will be a long run­ning cam­paign, is out at the moment. Once again, an obscure indie film from the 60s is ref­er­enced, this one by Stan­ley Kubrick. “I am Spar­ti­cus” they all shout. And they end up drink­ing over-lit pints of Carls­berg in an ane­mic Euro bar float­ing above a teenage graph­ic artist’s much, much younger broth­er’s vision of the future.

It’s hip, urban, and edgie. More to the point, it’s absolute­ly hilar­i­ous! And it ends on that glo­ri­ous endline. 

As much as I’d love to be able to claim that they’d devised the cam­paign here in Dublin, it is alas the work of Fold7 in Lon­don. Hats off to you, peo­ple. What can I say; that calls for a Carlsberg!

If there are any ads that you’ve seen, that you think are as incred­i­ble as those traf­fic-stop­ping pair of Carls­berg ads, drop me a line in the com­ment box below. 

I don’t of course believe you. But I would be curi­ous to see them.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!