Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Westminster Bikes

Leaving work tonight I strolled up Victoria Street heading for the station and started noticing a lot of motorbikes. Then I saw lots of police and bikes parked at the sides of the road, taking up lots of space. And then Victoria Street was shut off and covered in bikes and bikers. What was going on?

I saw a few signs about 'no to bike tax' but no real explanations about what the demo was about so I looked it up when I got home.

I'm sure it would've been frustrating for people in cars and buses having to be diverted, but it was nice to have a traffic-free Victoria Street for a change. It was just full of bikes and bikers from the Army & Navy Store all the way up to Little Ben. Most of the bikers looked middle aged and male, all shapes and sizes along with all sorts of bikes. I still wouldn't ride a motorbike, though...

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - 'Hot City'

I grabbed a copy of the 'new' album from The Sensational Alex Harvey Band after work today which was nicely displayed amid all the other new releases in the big HMV shop on Oxford Street (always a good sign). 'Hot City' is the lost album from 1974 that SAHB recorded with Shel Talmy before going into the studio a few months later to re-record it as 'The Impossible Dream'.

It's nicely packaged in a cardboard sleeve with a 20 page booklet inside and another cardboard sleeve with the actual CD. There are lots of nice black and white photos of Alex and the band that I've never seen before. The booklet is mainly made up of Chris Glen (bass) and Ted McKenna (drums) providing a commentary on each track, remembering how Alex used to do this and that and how the vocal is more up-front and how they forget that a song changed it's title - it's virtually a DVD commentary and fun to read.

The CD sounds like a demo for the album that was eventually released, or live versions of the songs. The vocal phrasing is different on some songs, the vocals mixed to the front, brass on some tracks that I wasn't expecting and Zal's guitar often mixed down and the power almost lost. It's an interesting historical document in that sense, showing the ancestry of some of the great SAHB songs.

The only song that I hadn't heard before is 'Ace In The Hole' which seems to have been treated a la 'Framed'. 'Man In The Jar' is much shorter than the normal version and the final track is 9 minutes long called 'Last Train' on this album but it's actually an early (and slightly longer) version of 'Anthem' with the drums and pipes mixed low.

If you're a SAHB fan you'll love this new record. I prefer the 'The Impossible Dream' versions of the songs but, then again, I would, since I've been listening to them for over 30 years. These alternative vesions of the songs bring some new light and shade to the songs that make them enjoyable. It's also great to hear Alex afresh, different phrasing to some of the songs but still powerful and passionate. And the band is, of course, Sensational.

Monday, 30 March 2009


On Saturday I jumped (sedately, of course) on a bus down Brixton Hill to the picture palace that is the Ritzy to see 'Watchmen'. For some reason it's not playing at my local cinema at the weekend but it's always nice to head on down to the Ritzy at Brixton (it sells Guinness). I don't know very much about the 'Watchmen' graphic novels except they're very culty so I had to see it. Loaded up with popcorn and coke I sat patiently through the adverts and usual rubbish at the start of a film and then settled back waiting to be amazed. But I wasn't very. Amazed that is.

I found it an odd sort of film, clearly paying homage to the graphic novel and stuffed full of the kind of detail the geeks would love but maybe there was too much attention to detail. It's a bit of a slow burner and took a while to get going - but then again, most superhero films seem to be a bit slow to start off with since there's always a back-story to explain. And most of the heroes don't really have super-powers as such, other than agility, a good punch and a tight costume. Except Dr Manhattan who has powers aplenty and not a costume in sight. Yes, the good Doctor is blue and naked for most of the film with his willy hanging out all over the place. And his bum.

It's set in a very rainy alternative America in 1985 when heroes have gone public and retired other than the Doctor and a sociopath hero who tells the story in short soundbites. No more heroes is the message, the world can save itself except it can't. The nuclear annihilation clock is ticking closer to midnight every time we see it. The USA and the USSR are at stand-off and only Dr Manhattan - who could personally blow up the world - seems to be the only thing stopping the superpowers going to war. So why is someone killing off the heroes?

It's a complex and layered plot but I think I followed it. I wasn't entirely convinced but, hey, that's probably due to lack of super-powered zaps and too much punching and general bloodiness. There was lots of blood. There were also lots of flashbacks to explain the plot.

Did I enjoy it? Yes. It's not as immediate as some other superhero films but it worked for me. It's dark and very serious, not very many laughs but some great fight sequences with Nite Owl and Silk Sash trashing a prison-load of baddies in the blink of an eye. Mindless violence, blood and gore, rape and alcoholism, it's all in there somewhere. Plus a giant golden glass watch on red Mars and Dr Manhattan's blue bum against the dreary rain and grey of New York. I suspect the film will benefit from several viewings for the uninitiated (like me) to get all the in-jokes and references but it certainly seemed well done with lots of care and attention lavished on it. A sequel would be interesting...

Sunday, 29 March 2009

SAHB in News Of The World

In a day for blog-worthy news I've found out that there's a long article about The Sensational Alex Harvey Band's new album, 'Hot City' in the News of the World - of all the Sunday papers, why that one? Do the clicky thing and pop on over to its website for a read . The album is out tomorrow so that's me heading for the record shop after work.

Learn To Dance ...

Congratulations to Buffy Sainte-Marie for winning another Juno Award in Canada for best Aboriginal Album with 'Running For The Drum'. She's reported as advising younger singers to, 'Learn to dance, it keeps you skinny', at the awards ceremony.

It's an excellent album with lots of musical styles and is available through Buffy's site.

Amanda Gets Me In Trouble

My admiration of the lovely Amanda Palmer is well reported in this blog. As a loyal admirer I do, of course, let others know and I've recently been wearing the "AFP" badge I got last year when Miss Palmer played at Koko on her 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' tour. Just three yellow initials on a purple background.

The last two days have seen me upset two people asking what "AFP" means and, I upset someone at work earlier this year. I was in the Body Shop on Friday and was asked what it meant and then again at the Ritzy last night I was asked by the box office lady. I, quite factually, respond that it stands for "Amanda Fucking Palmer" to be met with flushed faces and flustered, 'oh, right...' followed by a stammering attempt to change the subject.

Maybe mild mannered middle aged men with nicely groomed beards aren't meant to use the word "fuck", or at least not in the presence of women? Two days running is a bit noticeable really. Well, I hope you're proud of yourself Miss Palmer. I think I'll go back to declaring my allegiances with my 'Punk Cabaret Is Freedom' badge instead.

Friday, 27 March 2009

This Used To Be The Future

I've been enjoying the new album from the Pet Shop Boys, 'Yes'. It's got some great songs on it. I got the 'white' version, the single album, rather than the 'black' special edition with the extra CD of remixes. I'm not really bothered about remixes but also on that CD is 'This Used To Be The Future' with the most marvellous Phil Oakey sharing the vocals with Neil and with Chris Lowe (yes, he sings!).

But now, courtesy of David (of Daily Dramas renown) I've heard the song and I love it! It's melancholic and nostalgic and past-looking-forward - after all, this used to be the future, y'know. The music segues into Human League hard beats for Phil's 'rap', a nice doff of the cap to one of the first masters of electronica.

It reminded me of seeing the League at Hammersmith last December and Phil stalking the stage to the stark sounds of 'Seconds'. It made me wonder about seeing the Pet Shop Boys at the O2 arena in June and whether Phil might turn up for a guest duet with the Pets. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Guess What?

Well? O, you want a clue do you, dear reader? Who have I waited for for decades to come and play in the UK? Who makes a point of hanging around after her show to meet her fans? Who signed a poster that is nicely framed and hanging on my wall?

OK, I'll tell you. None other that Ms Sainte-Marie herself. O yes, Buffy is coming to the UK, to the Cambridge Folk Festival. No other details are available yet, but the festival is over the weekend of 30 July - 2 August. The Buffy-wires are a-buzz this side of the Atlantic. Excited? You betcha!

I've never been to Cambridge.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Maximo Park - 'Quicken The Heart'

'Quicken The Heart' is, of course, the soon-to-be released new album from those scallywags, Maximo Park. Yes, I know you know that, but have you seen the artwork yet?

As ever, it seems likethe lads will theme all the singles from the album with similar style artwork, so get used to the new look and feel (courtesy of Paul's brother, by the way). The album is released on 11 May.

The first single from the album will be 'The Kids Are Sick Again', due to be released on 4 May. It'll be released in four formats bundled with different combinations of three new songs for the 'b' sides.
  1. The Kids Are Sick Again
  2. Russian Dolls
  3. Tales of the Semi-Detached
  4. History Books
The album and single are available for pre-order below:



I (naturally) ordered my copy of the album (CD+DVD version) weeks ago. Well, you've got to, haven't you? New Maximo music at last!

Siouxsie & The Banshees At The BBC

You *need* to know about this if you don't already...

A new Siouxsie & The Banshees box set will be released on 25 May featuring CDs and a DVD of all their BBC appearances. The blurb says:

Siouxsie and the Banshees at the BBC is a stunning 84-track, all digitally-remastered, 4 disc hard-back book set of exclusive BBC sessions, live concert tracks and TV performances recorded between 1977–2001 split across 3CDs and a DVD. All tracks were hand picked by the band, including alternative versions of 18 classic hit singles, key session tracks from 1977-1987 and a concert recording from the Apollo Theatre in Oxford in 1985. The set also includes the complete John Peel sessions alongside sessions recorded for Kid Jensen, Richard Skinner and Janice Long. Disc 3 contains highlights from their BBC concert recordings at the Apollo Theatre in Oxford and the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1988, where the band performed a storming set 3 nights in a row to a sold out crowd. Highlights include a breathtaking "Last Beat of My Heart", "Christine" and a rip roaring crowd pleasing end of show version of "Hong Kong Garden". Disc 4, however, is the real gem; a 29 track DVD of the band’s BBC TV performances, features the complete Old Grey Whistle Test broadcasts from 1978, 1982 and 1985, the Something Else performances from 1979 and 1980, the Rock Goes to College broadcast from 1981 and the band’s complete Top of the Pops performances. A fantastic 30 page booklet contains extensive sleeve notes by Paul Morley, interviews with all the band members and a unique and insightful introduction written by Siouxsie.

Doesn't that get you salivating? The previous BBC CD, 'Voices On The Air' was excellent quality so I'm hoping for more of the same.

And on the subject of Siouxsie, her 'Mantaray And More' tour DVD is supposed to be released in May as well. It looks like an expensive month!

Monday, 23 March 2009

'Burnt By The Sun' - National Theatre

Another trip to the theatre tonight, courtesy of Chris, this time to the concrete halls of the National Theatre and 'Burnt By The Sun'.

'Burnt By The Sun' is based on a Russian film set in the mid-'30s and the start of Stalin's purges when even his most loyal allies weren't safe. It's the tale of a middle-aged general who marries a much younger woman from the middle classes and moves into her summer dacha with the rest of her family and friends who have been visiting the dacha for many years. There are tensions between the revolutionary general and his artistic and pampered in-laws and this bubbles to the surface when the young wife's former lover reappears after a 12 year absence. The second half reveals that he was away operating as a spy and the general actually recruited him and sent him abroad all those years ago. And then .... ah, but I won't spoil it for you...

The general is central to the play and the actor was off tonight for some reason so we saw the understudy in the role - I thought he was good, presenting the right level of personal confidence and status for a soldier who's worked his way up the ranks, but it's not the same as having the lead actor and the relationships he's developed with the rest of the cast. I thought all the performances were good but there were a few things in the script that irritated me - the wife pouring vodka with her hand shaking three times (I'd have stopped after the second time), the wife being 100% behind her former lover and then suddenly switching back to loving the general (eh? what happened? did I blink?) and (I'm sorry to say) the over-precocious ten year old daughter.

I enjoyed it. It's a thoughtful play, presented within a nice set of the dacha which swivels to show different rooms and also doubles as a beach. Despite being so 'open' in terms of space it had an odd claustrophobic feel to it, probably right for the times when you don't know who might be a friend or an enemy. Rory Kinnear as the young lover showed his worth in acting, singing, playing piano and even tap dancing, an interesting mix of skills for a spy.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Noughties Defection

O dear. No sooner do I declare my adherence to the '60s than I leap forward into the '70s and land in the '00s... in the shape of Mr James Whild Lea, Jim Lea of those Lords of Noize, SLADE! I *am* fickle, I admit it.

I left my music on shuffle and after whizzing through Girls Aloud, The Seekers, P!nk, Maximo Park, X-Ray Spex, The Supremes and a dozen others, up popped Jim Lea in guitar hero mode blasting out his live version of 'Hey Joe'. That was all I needed to change direction and head into James Whild Lea territory.

Jim has two download albums available through his website (and one through iTunes) - his album of new material from a couple of years ago, 'Therapy', and his 'official bootleg' of the Jim Jam gig from 2002 which he released in 2007. It's Jim on lead vocals and lead guitar making mad noize to his heart's content and it sounds good. He plays some SLADE classics on the live bootleg, as you'd expect, but he also does fab versions of 'Pretty Vacant', 'You Really Got Me' and 'I Am The Walrus'. Guitar-driven rock is what it is, by a master who toured for 25 years and knows how to talk to a crowd from the stage. I'd love to see him play live, but that's a very rare occurrence these days.

Jim has been working on an album of new material for the last year or so so, hopefully, this year will see its release. If it's half as good as 'Therapy' then I can't wait.

'60s Child

I'm a child of the 1960s in that I was born in that decade. Back in the day I used to sneer when I heard the song, 'Born in the '50s' by The Police - that just made them so old.

I was reminded of my 60s status today when I looked at my Last.fm account and saw that my top 10 played artists this week are:

The Kinks
Pet Shop Boys
Suzanne Vega
Marianne Faithfull
Buffy Sainte-Marie
Alan Price
Alanis Morissette
Michelle Shocked

There's a reason for most of those people being heavily played this week, such as Marianne has a new album out and I've been reading Ray Davies' autobiography, hence The Kinks. But Lulu and Donovan? I suppose the sunny weather demanded some safe, sunny pop songs. The Pet Shop Boys are there largely from repeat playings of their new EP, 'Love Etc' (which is excellent) and then sampling other albums from the last 20-odd years.

I was just thinking the other day how lucky I am to have lived through the events from the '60s onwards and still be here to see a very different world. When I look back I see the world in shades of gray and ancient history. I recall my first teacher being called 'Little Miss Miniskirt' by my Mam since she was small and wore a skirt just above her knee... they went much higher in the years to follow. When my Dad was my age I'd already left home for university and he was well into middle age. I don't feel middle aged at all.

Life experience shapes us and I'm pleased that the times are very different and I'm free to do whatever I want with much broader opportunities than my parents ever had. My Mam always delighted in my travels to far-off places. She went travelling around Europe after the war and into the early '50s, a brave thing for her and her friends to do back then, and she loved getting cards from around India, Africa and the Far East, particularly since her health was deteriorating and she couldn't travel easily. She kept all the cards and the nick-nacks I sent back.

Through me, history stretches back to the 1890s when my grandparents were born. The house I live in was built in the 1890s as well. My grandparents were born into an age with steam trains for distance travel and horse and carts for local travel around the villages in old Durham and Northumberland. And they lived to see the moon landing. The pace of change is rapidly increasing. My nephews were born in the '90s - I wonder what change they'll see and accept as the norm in their lives?

As for me, I like having been born in and lived through the '60s - the things I've seen and done in the last five decades are probably wonders to older generations. I grew up in a world that had change as the norm and I relish that. I wonder if there'll ever be a time when change leaves me behind? I hope not. That would be so dull.

Friday, 20 March 2009

The Superions - 'Totally Nude Island'

I have heard the future of rock 'n' roll and it is nude. It is Fred Schneider to be exact, yes, he of The B-52s, who is pursuing his 1950s sci-fi madness into the 21st Century. I will forever carry the vision of him pretending to row away from the rock lobster at the Roundhouse last year - he really believed it. His latest incarnation is as part of The Superions. Take a look and listen to the remix video below and then book your ticket to Totally Nude Island....

'Plague Over England' at The Duchess Theatre

Chris got cheap tickets to see 'Plague Over England' at the Duchess Theatre the other night so took me as a break from the drudgery at work at the moment. All I knew was that it was about John Gielgud.

It's the tale of Sir John Gielgud getting trapped cottaging in a gentleman's public convenience in 1952, his fear of exposure and hitting the headlines, his recovery by going back on stage as planned and continuing his career as one of our foremost thespians. There's a sub-plot about police entrapment and the nightlife of small clubs for gentlemen fearful of police raids. There's also the sub-plot of a younger pair - the policeman who traps Sir John (what a coincidence) and the posh son of a judge who regularly sends gays to prison - falling in and out of love. Another sub-plot has the private secretary of a Tory minister being infatuated with an American - this plot has no real purpose other than to suggest even people in high places can be gay (how novel).

It has all the ingredients of being something good - and I enjoyed it, I must say - but I felt it would benefit from another re-draft to smooth out some of the sub-plots and increase the internal consistency. There were some set pieces - like the Tory minister making an anti-gay speech (which provides the plays name) while the youngsters kissed at the front of the stage - that just looked a little too obvious and strained.

So. On to the good bits. Celia Imrie! I don't think I've seen Celia on stage before but I thought she was marvellous playing Sybill Thorndike and the ex-chorus girl owner of a gentleman's club - the stage seemed to come alive whenever she stepped onto it. She was excellent. I also enjoyed the 3 or 4 characters played by David Burt who will forever be Petal from Boy George's 'Taboo' in my mind. He brought some much needed humour and lightness to the stage, and also some pathos at the end when, as the janitor in the public convenience, he discusses significant others with John Gielgud and says he's never had a 'special person' in his life, a lonely life but still smiling and offering cups of tea. I found that scene quite touching. I'll also mention Michael Feast as Sir John (he worked with Gielgud years ago) and he had the mannerisms and the voice down to a tee. I didn't find him very sympathetic though.

I enjoyed it and so did the rest of the audience from some of the guffaw laughs. It was probably about one third empty which I hope reflects it being a Wednesday night rather than it failing. I loved the audience though - I was definitely in the younger 20% with most of the audience seeming to be gentlemen of a certain age who were either theatrical in nature or whose wives were at a knitting circle that night (nudge nudge). Ahem. And they weren't very quick at getting to the bar at half time so I picked up our drinks very quickly (being young and spritely in comparison). I admit to wondering how many of them might have serviced Sir John when they younger and whether this was a trip down memory lane...

It's well worth seeing and the Duchess is small enough to be intimate. It also serves Guinness (always a good sign).

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Buffy Sainte-Marie - 'No No Keshagesh'

This is quite an evening for videos of Buffy Sainte-Marie. No sooner did I hear about the video for 'Big Ones' (see below) on the Buffy wires than I see from Michael's blog that there's a video of Buffy singing 'No, No Keshagesh' a month or so ago.

'No, No Keshagesh' is the opening track from Buffy's new album, 'Running For The Drum' and Keshagesh is the Cree word to describe a greedy puppy that wants to keep eating everything, a metaphor for corporate greed (she's ever the visionary, wor Buffy). I'm not sure why the music and backing vocals seem to be turned down but it's great to see Buffy giving it some serious hip-wiggling.

I have, of course, seen the marvellous Ms Sainte-Marie performing this song live when I saw her in New York in March 2008 with pow wow backing vocals from Ulali. I was entranced.

If you want to get hold of the album just click on over to Buffy's site.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Buffy Sainte-Marie - 'The Big Ones Get Away'

A few years ago I saw a press pack being sold on eBay for Buffy Sainte-Marie's 1992 album, 'Coincidence And Likely Stories'. I bid and won and it included a few tracks form the album on CD and cassette, some paperwork and a videotape of promo materials made up of some interview segments and a video for 'The Big Ones Get Away', the first single from the album. Some kind soul has posted the video on YouTube and here it is:

The video for 'Big Ones' is very simple but very effective. I love the sequence where Buffy, as the woman in the song, reaches for the crescent moon and wields it like a knife to protect her family.

Go on, take a look ...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Fascinating Facts

Isn't it interesting what fascinating facts you come across on a daily basis?

I'm reading Ray Davies' autobiography at the moment and found out that on the day The Kinks first went to No 1 in the UK pop chart with 'You Really Got Me' they played a gig at Streatham Ice Rink. Not only that, but the ice melted and they had to shorten their usual set. I've been past the ice rink thousands of times but never been inside. There should be a plaque on the wall announcing it's importance to rock history.

Friday, 13 March 2009

New York Dolls - 'Cause I Sez So'

The New York Dolls have made a new record with Todd Rundgren and it's out on 5 May. I thoroughly enjoyed the last record and danced like a monkey when I saw them at The Forum. I'm looking forward to this...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

More Maximo Teasing

Those Maximo Park raggamuffins have published the tracklisting for the new album, 'Quicken The Heart', due on 11 May, but still no artwork - they're drawing this out something painful ...

The song titles are interesting though:
  1. Wraithlike

  2. The Penultimate Clinch

  3. The Kids Are Sick Again

  4. A Cloud Of Mystery

  5. Calm

  6. In Another World (You Would've Found Yourself By Now)

  7. Let's Get Clinical

  8. Roller Disco Dreams

  9. Tanned

  10. Questing, Not Coasting

  11. Overland, West Of Suez

  12. I Haven't Seen Her In Ages
There's a pre-order deal available and a special edition preorder at the Record Store (includes the 65 minute tour DVD & first 1000 copies will be signed by a member of the band). A clip from the DVD is at the top of the Maximo homepage at the moment (it's Limassol from Newcastle Arena in December 2007).

Monday, 9 March 2009

Maximo Park 'Wraithlike'

If you head on over to the Maximo site you can hear and download a song, 'Wraithlike', from the new album, 'Quicken The Heart'. Go on, give it a try...

Saturday, 7 March 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I think I might need to see this...

X-Men Origins - Exclusive Trailer

Maximo Alert

Songs from Maximo Park's new album will receive their first airing on Radio 1 on Monday evening. The message from Paul and the Park is:

Tune in to Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show on Monday (9th March) between 7pm and 7.30pm to hear the first taste of our forthcoming album, Quicken The Heart, and for (potentially!) exciting details about how you can get hold of a new song for nothing. Check it!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Justin on Bambi

I was having a browse on YouTube to see if anyone had posted a video of Amanda Palmer and Justin Bond singing together in Sydney (not yet) when I came across this clip of Justin talking about Bambi Lake and then singing 'Viking Dan'.

Justin used to sing 'The Golden Age Of Hustlers', a song by Bambi about the good old days in San Francisco. It's a very evocative song celebrating a world long gone but Justin revives it. Take a look at Justin singing 'Viking Dan'.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Attack Of The Super Vixen

I've had an attack of The Creatures this evening, sampling their catalogue of songs from their on/off existence over the last (not quite) 30 years, from 'Mad Eyed Screamer' and 'Right Now' to 'Godzilla' and 'Attack Of The Super Vixens'. Add her parallel (and more full-time) career with The Banshees and her more recent solo work and you must think of Siouxsie in terms of one of the most creative and challenging musicians in the last few decades.

I started wondering where the 'Mantaray & More' tour DVD is and when it will be released (recorded at Koko last September) and that reminded me of her 'Dreamshow' performance at The Royal Festival Hall and the DVD of the show. That got me wanting to listen to 'Godzilla' which I had the pleasure of seeing her perform with Budgie and then I went back to the start of it all, and 'Mad Eyed Screamer'. I played 'Feast' endlessly when it came out in 1981. I'd never heard anything like it, the raw percussion augmented by gamelan and other exotic instruments and sounds. Then came 'Boomerang', 'Anima Animus' and, finally, 'Hai'.

I blogged about The Creatures discography last year when I decided to become a Creatures completist. I'm not there yet by any means. I found 'Sad Cunts' posted on YouTube last year but there is still more to find and I've just bid on a copy of 'Eraser Cut' on eBay. There will be more to find, I'm sure.

While we wait patiently for more from Siouxsie, please enjoy the madness of 'Godzilla' - he trashes cars, y'know.


After a pit stop at Stephen's birthday cocktails and a coconut daiquiri or three we headed off to see 'Milk' with Sean Penn in the lead role before it vanishes from the big screen.

I must admit to not knowing anything much about Harvey Milk at all other than he was elected the first gay official in San Francisco back in the '70s who was murdered shortly afterwards. Beyond that is pure guesswork so it was interesting to see his story unfold from the night of his 40th birthday in New York to his death in San Fransisco at the age of 49. I assume the film was a reasonably accurate portrayal of events if only because I haven't seen any outrage in the media about reinventing history.

I enjoyed the film and it has some interesting messages that are just valid today but it felt clunky and laboured in places. Harvey emerges fully formed as 40 year old in New York, has a one night stand that turns into his grand love and then moves to San Francisco and becomes a gay hippy radical. We're told nothing of his previous 40 years, no old friends appear even when he becomes famous, there's no back story. The final scene repeats one of the first scenes with Harvey saying he doesn't think he'll reach 50 ... um, I've just seen that scene, there's no need to remind me. In that respect it's the tale of a man who only started living, really living and learning to be himself, when he turned 40.

The characters were also a bit odd, with most of them having everyday clothes (I'd forgotten that trousers were ever that tight) and hair and the only time you see a drag queen is in the odd crowd scene. Oh, and a Sylvester clone at Harvey's party. Is that odd or do I just have myths of San Francisco in my head, city of the Coquettes and radical politics. Where was the colour? And where were the cultural references of the time other than the hippy hair at the start of the film becoming shorter by the end of the film and the end of the '70s. I would've thought the film would have dripped with references to the times all over the place. Or maybe this says more about my prejudices and expectations.

OK, so there's some whinges for you. But I did like the film and enjoyed seeing it. I shared the sadness of seeing a man who's finally achieved his dream being cut down for no good reason. I thought Sean Penn was really good and, if that's what Harvey was really like, then he was a man of great spirit and kindness who deserves to be honoured. The film also reminds us that time moves on but things don't necessarily change.

If you haven't seen it yet, and it's still playing in your area, then go and see it. It's definitely worth a couple of hours sitting in the dark with popcorn and coke.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Maximo Park - 'Quicken The Heart'

The new album from Maximo Park will be called 'Quicken The Heart' and is released on 11 May, just a couple of weeks before I see the lads at Brixton.

The album is available in various formats but I've pre-ordered the CD+DVD version - the DVD is their live show at Newcastle before Christmas and if you want a taster just pop over to their website to see 'Limassol' complete with green lasers (one must approve of lasers).

The tension mounts...

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Simply Madonna

This afternoon we went to see the 'Simply Madonna' exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery at Brick Lane. It's a collection of Madonna clothes and memorabilia acquired (owned or borrowed) by Marquee Capital. I'm not sure what Marquee Capital is but I assume it's about money in some respect, as in making it. It says on the blurb that it's in conjunction with Barnardos and has a big disclaimer to say that it's got nothing to do with Madonna. I believe the latter - I can't see Madonna supporting something so amateur.

The exhibition is mainly of her stage costumes and 'Evita' dresses, plus various bits of memorabilia, posters and record covers. It's interesting enough and any Madonna fan will want to see this stuff (let's face it, her personal bits have touched this cloth), including contracts signed as 'Madonna Penn' and the 100 copies only box set of her CDs. But it strikes me as such a wasted opportunity.

The exhibition is in a large room with the brickwork painted white. The main lights are switched off and all lighting is provided by spotlights, not particularly well positioned or enlightening. There are two main exhibitions - stage costumes at one end of the space and 'Evita' frocks at the other, except the 'Evita' frocks could have come from any film of that era and don't really say 'Madonna' - at least not to me.

The space wasn't very well used and the lighting was very poor. There wasn't enough lighting to see the clothes other that in general - any costumier who wanted to see the detail would be very disappointed. Why put posters on the wall in dark corners without any lighting? Most of the publicity for the exhibition is based on the pink 'Material Girl' dress but the frock is mainly covered by a white stole so you don't really see that much of the dress.

The biggest sin was the pubescent manequins used as models. Um, excuse me people, but Madonna is a woman with full breasts and a bum, not a skinny little anorexic thing with no real shape. The costumes were hanging off the models because they were made for a woman not a little doll. And the wigs must've come from a job lot. It was particularly galling for some of the costumes with photos of Madonna wearing them beside the model, particularly where the hair is wrong (side partings aren't the same as centre partings, y'know, it's not rocket science) as well as the bust size.

I'm sorry to be so down on the exhibition but it's such an opportunity lost. It's shabbily thrown together with no real thought. I'll be getting sticky and sweet with the real thing again this summer.