Gilla Band’s new album, Most Normal

Gilla Band, Most Nor­mal

After the tour around their sec­ond album, The Talkies, was put on hia­tus because of the pan­dem­ic, Girl Band found them­selves with less to do and a more than usu­al amount of time to think. 

And they decid­ed that, rather than wait to be picked up by the gen­der police and hauled in front of the court of pub­lic opin­ion, they’d change their name from Girl to Gilla Band. Dis­cre­tion being the bet­ter part of val­our. So this, Most Nor­mal, is the third album from what is now the Gilla Band

Gilla were part of a trio of bands to come out of Dublin in the lat­ter half of the 2010s, the oth­er two being Fontaines D.C. and The Mur­der Cap­i­tal – though the lat­ter are flavoured as much by the Riv­er Lee as they are by the Liffey. 

Each pro­duced a vis­cer­al, indus­tri­alised squall to gut­tur­al lyrics that were declaimed rather than sung, angri­ly decry­ing despair and urban alien­ation. Mur­der Cap­i­tal and Fontaines found imme­di­ate, overnight suc­cess, the for­mer to a man­age­able degree, the lat­ter stratos­pher­i­cal­ly so. But Gilla Band seemed some­how to have got left behind. 

Fontaines D.C. enjoy­ing their success.

First, after being signed to Rough Trade and then releas­ing their first album, Hold­ing Hands With Jamie, in 2015, the band were forced to take their first hia­tus. As their lead singer, Dara Kiely, focused, quite cor­rect­ly, on the men­tal health issues that were threat­en­ing to over­whelm him.

Then, when they even­tu­al­ly got back togeth­er again to release their very good sec­ond album, The Talkies, in 2019, Covid once again put them on hold. But this, it turns out, was a bless­ing in dis­guise. Because it sent them back into the stu­dio, and the result­ing album, Most Nor­mal, is a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward again. And is in fact one of the most excit­ing albums of the year.

The album’s strength come from two quar­ters. First, instead of only pro­duc­ing music that can be played live, they focused instead on using every­thing at their dis­pos­al in the stu­dio to pro­duce the noise they were look­ing for. The result is a sound that’s even more unnerv­ing, and some­how even loud­er and more grat­ing than the one pro­duced on their pre­vi­ous pair of albums. As dis­tor­tion gets processed to pro­duce an even more per­ilous assault on the ears.

What it sounds like at times is that part of the sound­track on a David Lynch film where the sounds are so dis­tort­ed and dis­so­nant, and what you hear is so unset­tling, that you avert your eyes in fear of what’s about to happen.

As to what the album address­es, if the pro­tag­o­nists from CamusThe Stranger or Sartre’s Nau­sea were cat­a­pult­ed into the 21st cen­tu­ry and locked inside a record­ing stu­dio, this is very prob­a­bly what the result­ing album would sound like. 

The Mur­der Capital.

And sec­ond, and as facile as this undoubt­ed­ly is, it’s impos­si­ble not to con­clude that the suc­cess enjoyed by Fontaines and the Mur­der Cap­i­tal has knocked the edges off the songs that they’re now producing. 

Where­as the absence of that suc­cess has ensured that Gilla Band con­tin­ue to be and to sound as angry about being over­looked and ignored by the world they find them­selves in as they were five and six years ago. Not the music busi­ness world, the world in gen­er­al. The real world.

It’s the sound of jump leads, one thrust into a brain, the oth­er into the gut. And as such, it’s glo­ri­ous­ly unmediated. 

The boys from Pitch­fork give it an impressed 8.4 here, and cor­rect­ly point to The Weirds as the stand­out track.

You can see the video for Back­wash, the lead sin­gle, below. Just don’t expect it to chart any time soon.

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Parasite; mmnah


There’s noth­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly wrong with Par­a­site, the sev­enth film from South Kore­an film mak­er Bong Joon-ho. And, had it arrived under the radar, as it were, much as his fourth film, Moth­er, did in 2009, then very prob­a­bly it could have been for­giv­en its many glar­ing inconsistencies.

Sure, it’s about half an hour too long. And, like Moth­er (not to be con­fused with Dar­ren Aronofsky’s exe­crable Moth­er!, with an excla­ma­tion mark, reviewed by me ear­li­er here), it can’t make up its mind whether it’s a dark com­e­dy, a creepy thriller, or a social satire – cant it be all three, you ask? On which, more anon. 

Depar­dieu in Les Valseuses.

And sure, it’s the sort of film that Bertrand Bli­er was mak­ing eons ago, but with much more verve and brio. Films like Les Valseuses (limply trans­lat­ed as Going Places) from 1974, Buf­fet froid from ’79 and Tenue de soirée from ’86. All of which starred Gérard Depar­dieu in all his pomp, and which all dis­played, not to put too fine a point on it, con­sid­er­ably more balls.

But it didn’t. Par­a­site arrived gar­land­ed, anoint­ed and ver­i­ly fes­tooned, blaz­ing a trail of un-checked praise.

That it should have won the Acad­e­my award for Best Film is very much par for the course. It’s exact­ly the sort of skin deep, un-demand­ing social satire that the Acad­e­my likes to pat itself on the back for applaud­ing. What’s much more sur­pris­ing is that they should have giv­en the nod to the gen­uine­ly edgy Moon­light (reviewed by me here) three years previously.

Tim Rob­bins in The Play­er.

But it’s baf­fling that the grown ups at Cannes should have been equal­ly wowed, albeit in a par­tic­u­lar­ly weak year. Mind you, they gave the Palme d’Or to The Square in 2017, which was sim­i­lar­ly unfocused.

So, what’s wrong with being a dark com­e­dy, a creepy thriller, and a social satire? Well, noth­ing. It can be done, as with Scorsese’s The King of Com­e­dy (’82), David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (‘90) and Twin Peaks (’92- present) and Robert Altman’s The Long Good­bye (‘73) and The Play­er (‘92). All of which of course were com­plete­ly over­looked by the Academy. 

You just need to answer the three fun­da­men­tal ques­tions that all sto­ries must answer; whose sto­ry is it? What do they want? And what’s stop­ping them?

The Long Good­bye,

So whose sto­ry is being told in Par­a­site? To begin with, it’s the son’s. Then, 20 min­utes in, it switch­es to his sis­ter. Then his father. Then it’s a mix of all four, their moth­er now join­ing them. Before final­ly revert­ing to the son once more. This does not pro­duce a whim­si­cal mix­ing of gen­res and a delight­ful flit­ting hith­er and thith­er. It’s all just a bit of a mess.

If we don’t know whose sto­ry it is, we can’t know what they want, and what there­fore is stop­ping them from get­ting it. So we’ve nobody to root for, and there’s no way for us to get emo­tion­al­ly engaged, so there’s noth­ing at stake. This is not some option­al extra. It’s the very foun­da­tion upon which all sto­ries are built.

Lau­ra Palmer, Twin Peaks.

Not that any of this should real­ly have come as a sur­prise. After all, before mak­ing Moth­er, Boon hooked up with Michel Gondry and Leos Carax, two of the most incon­se­quen­tial and insub­stan­tial film mak­ers to have ever come out of France, to make Tokyo! (08) together.

Let’s hope nobody intro­duces poor Boon to Ter­rence Mal­ick and the afore­men­tioned Aronof­sky, America’s answer to messers Gondry and Carax. Per­ish the thought.

You can see the trail­er for Par­a­site here.

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Never Look Away”, new film from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

Nev­er Look Away.

The Lives of Oth­ersFlo­ri­an Henck­el von Don­ners­mar­ck’s fea­ture debut from 2006,was one of the stand­out films of the last decade. His fol­low-up, The Tourist from 2010, star­ring John­ny Depp and Angeli­na Jolie, and cost­ing over 100 mil­lion dol­lars, wasn’t mere­ly dis­ap­point­ing, it man­aged some­how to pass every­one by, going com­plete­ly un-noticed. 

The Lives of Others.

Which was quite a feat giv­en its cast and cost. So was that debut a chance acci­dent of con­verg­ing tal­ents, or did it gen­uine­ly her­ald the arrival of a seri­ous film maker? 

In his new film, Nev­er Look Away, Tom Schilling plays Kurt, an artist strug­gling under the restric­tions of life in post-war East Ger­many. Mar­ried to the daugh­ter of a for­mer SS offi­cer, who does every­thing he pos­si­bly can to sab­o­tage their union, they flee to free­dom in the West. 

There’s lit­tle enough to get excit­ed about in cin­e­ma these days, so when you do seem to have stum­bled upon an actu­al find, you cross your fin­gers that who­ev­er it is turns out to be the gen­uine arti­cle. So I des­per­ate­ly want­ed to be wowed by Nev­er Look Away. But it’s felled, alas, by two fatal flaws.

Sirk’s Imi­ta­tion of Life.

First, it’s a melo­dra­ma. Per­son­al­ly, I love melo­dra­ma, it’s prob­a­bly my favourite genre, being to cin­e­ma what coun­try is to music. And Ger­many has a proud tra­di­tion of bril­liant melodrama. 

On the one hand, there are those glo­ri­ous, Tech­ni­col­or weepies that Dou­glas Sirk made in Hol­ly­wood in the 1950s; All That Heav­en Allows (’55), Writ­ten on the Wind (’56) and Imi­ta­tion of Life (‘59). Glo­ri­ous­ly over the top, unashamed­ly man­nered and defi­ant­ly the­atri­cal. “You don’t believe in the hap­py end­ing,” Sirk said of that last named, “and you’re not sup­posed to(!)

Fass­binder’s the Bit­ter Tears of Petra von Kant.

And on the oth­er, there are those flur­ry of do-it-your­self, hand­made films that Rain­er Wern­er Fass­binder pro­duced in the 70s, before burn­ing so spec­tac­u­lar­ly out at the ten­der age of 37. Films like Fear Eats the Soul (’74), Despair (’78) and the peer­less the Bit­ter Tears of Petra von Kant (’72). Arche­typ­al­ly art house, brazen­ly intel­lec­tu­al and com­fort­ably, almost casu­al­ly avant garde. 

The prob­lem with Nev­er Look Away is that it is nei­ther fish nor fowl, falling mid­way between those two twin poles. Much of it is glo­ri­ous­ly sil­ly, but how inten­tion­al that is, is impos­si­ble to say. What, for instance, are we to make of the fact that the artists Kurt meets on his arrival in the West look like they’ve stepped out of one of those paint­ings pro­duced back in the Com­mu­nist East, that they are sup­posed to be cri­tiquing? And what about that end­ing – no spoil­ers -? Are we meant to smile know­ing­ly, à la Sirk, or are we sup­posed to take it seri­ous­ly? In short, it’s a film that des­per­ate­ly wants to be tak­en seri­ous­ly, but devotes its entire ener­gy into mere­ly look­ing won­drous­ly pretty.

David Lynch’s Dune, which is every bit as bad as that poster suggests.

It’s not hard to see where the project went wrong. Don­ners­mar­ck befriend­ed the great Ger­man artist Ger­hard Richter, inter­view­ing him at length, which you can read about in the New York­er pro­file here. But with what in mind? That inti­ma­cy meant that he was then inca­pable of pro­duc­ing a dis­tanced, warts and all biopic of the man. So instead, he made a fic­tion­alised film about some­one quite like, but not actu­al­ly, Richter. The result is polite, well man­nered and extreme­ly dull. It’s not even the sort of spec­tac­u­lar fail­ure that we got with Dune. Which some­how makes it even more of a disappointment. 

Hope­ful­ly, just as David Lynch did after Dune, Don­ners­mar­ck will go back to the sort of small, inti­mate film that he began with. But as of now, so far as his gifts as a film mak­er go, the jury is very much out. He seems, at least for the moment, to be more of a Dar­ren Aronof­sky than he does an Asghar Farhadi.

You can see the trail­er for Nev­er Look Away here.

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The Leftovers, another gem from HBO.

the Leftovers.

the Left­overs.

HBO’s the Left­overs is a decep­tive­ly high con­cept series. On Octo­ber 14th 2011, 2% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion sud­den­ly dis­ap­pear. Which doesn’t sound ter­ri­bly cat­a­stroph­ic until you do the maths. In a vil­lage of 100 peo­ple liv­ing in 25 hous­es, two of those house will have sud­den­ly lost some­one, lit­er­al­ly into thin air, nev­er to see them again, with­out ever find­ing out how or why.

Under­stand­ably, the sub­ur­ban town we find our­selves in, in upstate New York, has been utter­ly dev­as­tat­ed, as has every oth­er cor­ner of the coun­try. The Depar­ture, as it’s referred to, is effec­tive­ly a What If addressed to the Evangelicals.


Father and daughter.

Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians believe that the Rap­ture is immi­nent, by which they mean they expect it to occur with­in the decade. When it does, the cho­sen few will be spir­it­ed up to Heav­en, and the rest of us will be left behind. The Left­overs asks us to imag­ine, what would that actu­al­ly look like, in prac­ti­cal terms.

Except it doesn’t. Because it’s even worse than that, as no one can iden­ti­fy any­thing that might con­nect those who were spir­it­ed away – if that was what hap­pened to them – any more than they can explain why they, the left­overs, were not. So nobody can be sure exact­ly what hap­pened on that fate­ful day, and all too many char­ac­ters have their own par­tic­u­lar theory.

The result is a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic land­scape where height­ened reli­gious fer­vour merges with unman­age­able guilt and sus­pi­cion, so that every­one and every­thing, how­ev­er appar­ent­ly mun­dane, is viewed with unimag­in­able anx­i­ety. Dogs have become fer­al, deer con­verse­ly wan­der in and out of hous­es. Mes­si­ahs mate­ri­alise, cults are formed and everyone’s addict­ed to pre­scrip­tion drugs and alco­hol. Smok­ing increas­es, and there’s a gen­er­al sense of law­less­ness. But more than any­thing else, fam­i­lies fall apart.

Oh dear.

Oh dear.

The series revolves, just about, around the fig­ure of Justin Ther­oux, the local cop whose mar­riage fell apart around the Depar­ture, and whose father, who was the chief before him, is cur­rent­ly hos­pi­talised in an insti­tu­tion. But as often as not, an episode will focus on a periph­er­al char­ac­ter. A pas­tor, a mem­ber of a cult, a woman who lost her hus­band and both her chil­dren, imme­di­ate­ly after argu­ing with her youngest, all of whom are con­nect­ed to Ther­oux in dif­fer­ing ways.

The Left­overs was aired on HBO and is effec­tive­ly the fol­low up to Lost for Damon Lin­de­lof. And what­ev­er he might say pub­li­cal­ly, he clear­ly has leant many a les­son from that less than sat­is­fy­ing expe­ri­ence. The prin­ci­ple improve­ment is scope. This is a far more focused affair, hom­ing in on a much small­er group of characters.

Lyv Tyler.

Lyv Tyler.

Iron­i­cal­ly, what this allows for is a far more exper­i­men­tal approach to sto­ry­telling. The Left­overs is sur­pris­ing­ly flu­id and neb­u­lous, which only adds to its sense of eerie dread. None of us know what’s going to hap­pen next any more than any of the char­ac­ters do. There’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­o­rable dream sequence – almost impos­si­ble after David Lynch – where you only realise that what you’ve been watch­ing is in fact a dream at exact­ly the same moment as the char­ac­ter does, as they wake up out of it in a pan­ic. Which is stag­ger­ing hard to pull off.

Impres­sive­ly, sea­sons 2 and 3 are, if any­thing, even bet­ter. And, best of all, and he clear­ly did learn this from his Lost expe­ri­ence, there only a total of 3 series. The only blot on an oth­er­wise per­fect copy­book is the series’ finale. Apart from the damp squib that is that con­clud­ing episode, the Left­overs is a triumph.

You can see the excel­lent trail­er for the Left­overs here

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How bad is “Mother!”?

Darren Aronofsky's Mother.

Dar­ren Aronof­sky’s Moth­er.

So just how bad is the new Dar­ren Aronof­sky film, Moth­er!? Well, and at the risk of bam­boo­zling you with arcane tech­ni­cal jar­gon, it is what we in the indus­try refer to as pants. Which is extreme­ly dis­ap­point­ing, because for a while Aronof­sky seemed as if he might be the great white hope of inde­pen­dent cinema.

He made his impres­sive debut in 1998 with Pi, and fol­lowed it up two years lat­er with the gen­uine­ly daz­zling Requiem for a Dream. Here glo­ri­ous­ly, form is con­tent, and con­tent form, as Beck­ett had defend­ed Joyce with. The high­ly stylised explo­ration of the lan­guage and gram­mar of cin­e­ma was the per­fect way to delve deep into the top­ic of addic­tion. The result was the film of the decade.

Jarred Leto and Jennifer Connolly in Reqiem for a Dream.

Jared Leto and Jen­nifer Con­nel­ly in Requiem for a Dream.

Next up was The Foun­tain in ’06. And, suf­fice it to say, we all put that film down to the immense pres­sure he must have been under to pro­duce a wor­thy fol­low-up to what had come before. So he was for­giv­en that.

Then came The Wres­tler in ’08. So okay, before earn­ing the right to go back to mak­ing the sorts of films that he real­ly wants to make, he need­ed to accom­mo­date the bean coun­ters in Hol­ly­wood. And as nice as it was see­ing Mick­ey Rourke back on the sil­ver screen, it real­ly is lit­tle more than your runofthemill, feel­go­od Hol­ly­wood film.

The dream master, David Lynch's Mulholland Dr.

The dream mas­ter, David Lynch’s Mul­hol­land Dr.

But then came Black Swan, reviewed ear­li­er here, a fur­ther a n oth­er Hol­ly­wood pic­ture. And then, worse again, Noah in ‘14 which couldn’t have been more Hol­ly­wood had it been direct­ed by Cecil B DeMille and starred Charl­ton Hes­ton. So just what kind of a film mak­er is Aronofsky?

Well let’s just hope that Moth­er! isn’t the answer to that ques­tion. True, for peri­ods of ten, even fif­teen min­utes, the film trun­dles along inof­fen­sive­ly enough. And you begin to won­der what all the fuss is about. But then there’ll be a plot point, a quote devel­op­ment unquote in the ahem, sto­ry, that’s so implau­si­ble and so com­plete­ly uncon­nect­ed with what had gone on before, that your only response is an almost over­pow­er­ing urge to get up and leave.

I don’t remem­ber ever see­ing a film that left me so per­ma­nent­ly on the edge of my seat, about to leave, only to remain where I was on the assump­tion that any moment now, it was sure­ly going to improve. It was like re-liv­ing the 2016 elec­tion night all over again.

Jodorowsky's most recent pair of comeback films, Santa Sangre and the Dream of Reality.

Jodor­owsky’s most recent pair of come­back films, San­ta San­gre and the Dance of Real­i­ty.

For a while there, you won­der whether what’s being explored here might per­haps be some sort of dream­scape. But as Freud so mem­o­rably summed up, dreams are about “the trans­for­ma­tion of man­i­fest dream mate­r­i­al into latent dream con­tent”. The whole point of dreams and their read­ing in oth­er words, is the con­nec­tion between what you dream about, and the stuff of your every­day life. The dif­fer­ent ele­ments need to be con­nect­ed, oth­er­wise they are lit­er­al­ly mean­ing­less. And if what we’re being offered on the oth­er hand is some sort of metaphor, alle­go­ry or para­ble, then we need to be able to iden­ti­fy with who­ev­er it is that is expe­ri­enc­ing the les­son to be learned.

There are no con­nec­tions between the begin­ning, mid­dle and end of Moth­er!, or for that mat­ter, between any of its major scenes, and you could­n’t pos­si­bly iden­ti­fy with any of the char­ac­ters involved. There are the same two prin­ci­pal actors, poor old Jen­nifer Lawrence and Javier Bar­dem, on the same set, of the same house, and all the props are the same. But there is almost noth­ing to con­nect what hap­pens in one scene with what hap­pens in the next.

Fellini's 8 1/2.

Fellini’s 8 1/2.

Dreams have been cen­tral to cin­e­ma, which is hard­ly sur­pris­ing for a medi­um designed to pro­duce illu­sion. Fellini’s 8 ½, Bunuel’s the Dis­creet Charm of the Bour­geoisie, Polanski’s Repul­sion and, more recent­ly Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky’s the Dance of Real­i­ty, reviewed ear­li­er here, and, of course, David Lynch’s Mul­hol­land Dr., where, as David Thomp­son astute­ly point­ed out, D R stands first and fore­most for Dream, and only sec­ond­ly for Dri­ve.

If there are any of those films that you haven’t seen, do so now. If how­ev­er you’re curi­ous about what hap­pens when you try to make a film with­out hav­ing a script or, there­fore, a sto­ry, then if noth­ing else, Moth­er! will put you right on that.

Here’s the trail­er to Mul­hol­land Dri­ve. And for the record, you can see the trail­er to Moth­er here.

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