Saturday, 14 May 2016

Chops Gigs - Late April to Early May

I've been a bit slack on the top 5 front this year. The main reason for that has been me trying to keep on top of my post gig reports. I've realised if I don't knock them out in the first few days following the gig they're a lot harder to write and I've been to a lot of gigs this year. So, sorry if you're missing the top fives, I'll kick off another communal vote soon.

Shonen Knife at Guildford Boileroom on Friday 22nd April 2016 - I'd had an eye on this gig for a while but hadn't bought a ticket and on a cold & rainy evening after a long week at work I almost didn't go. However, in the immediate aftermath of Prince's passing, and considering this was Shonen Knife's 35th Anniversary, I realised if I couldn't force myself to make the short drive to Guildford instead of staying slumped on the sofa I'd never get to see them.

Meilyr Jones at The MOTH Club on Tuesday 26th April 2016 - Meilyr's set was another tour-de-force. The band sounds better every time I see them. Though the songs are more or less the same, there's so much going on in each one that every set has it's own unique freshness. They looked really good in the glittery surrounds of the MOTH Club too.

The Lovely Eggs at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club on Friday 29th April 2016 - On the band's website there's a statement of intent that runs "This is our band. We do exactly what we like. Some of our songs are ten seconds long. Some are four minutes long. We don't care. Because it doesn't matter. We have a lot of different sounding songs. Welcome to our world." I think that nails what's brilliant about The Lovely Eggs.

Lush at The Roundhouse on Saturday 7th May 2016 - I got into Lush in 1990. Along with the Pixies & Nirvana they were pivotal in my conversion from Metal to Indie and other alternative music. They became my favourite band for a spell and my pal Mark and I went to see them live whenever we could.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Guest Top 5 - Top Five Secular/Atheist Anthems by The Autumn Stones

It's been almost two years since I last had a guest top five to publish so here's a very welcome contribution from Canadian dreampop band The Autumn Stones. Written & selected by guitarist & songwriter Ciaran Megahey who provides us his favourite secular anthems in no particular order. Once you've read this you should go and check out The Autumn Stones music either via the band's website or via ubiquitous streaming platform Spotify.

Photo: Alison Waddell ©2015

The 6ths - "The Dead Only Quickly"
According to the songwriter's liner notes to his masterwork, 69 Love Songs, Stephin Merritt is a "rabid atheist". He is also my favourite songwriter and although he rarely tackles religion in his work, when he does he does so with wit and style. In verse two of "The Dead Only Quickly," he seems to be offering some degree of sympathy with the faithful: "It would be swell / To see some folk burn in hell..." But then comes the rejoinder: "But when they go / It's just as pleasant to know / That the dead only quickly decay..." leaving the listener wondering whether there isn't a trace of feline irony lurking in the shadows. The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon provides the masterfully understated vocal turn on this recording.

The Clash - "Rock The Casbah"
In the documentary film The Future is Unwritten, Joe Strummer describes "Rock The Casbah" as being about the inhumanity of religious fundamentalism. Not the kind of subject matter one expects to find topping the charts in 1982, but there you have it. I remember loving this song as a kid and love it slightly more now that I know what it's about.

Guided By Voices - "I Am a Scientist"
Another one of my all-time favourite tunesmiths: Robert Pollard. It's hard to imagine a finer moment in his extremely lengthy catalogue. "I Am a Scientist" comes across lyrically like his artist statement and perhaps the song that best defines him. Though making no mention of religion or faith whatsoever, it nonetheless seems to be about self discovery and finding meaning through art and being open-minded. "I know what's right / But I'm losing sight of the just unlock my mind / Yeah, to just unlock my mind..." A decidedly humble, secular and inspiring view in my book, making this song an appropriate fit on this list. I dare you to try to stop the hairs on the back of your neck from rising whilst listening.

Belinda Carlisle - "Heaven Is a Place on Earth"
This is another one that I remember from childhood as one of those songs that just makes your heart soar. It still does and as I read the lyrics to "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," I realized that this is pretty damn close lyrically to what I was trying to get at with one of my band's songs, "End Of Faith." Quoth Belinda, "In this world we're just beginning / To understand the miracle of living..." Dammit, she beat me to it. Heaven is a place on earth. And it is in the form of this song.

Kate Bush - "A Deal with God (Running Up that Hill)"
Yes, you read correctly: "A Deal with God" is the original, proper title of this Kate Bush classic. I am doing my part to help reclaim it! It was changed to "Running Up that Hill" at the behest of her fearful record company. Boooo! The public was very much ready for this — as its status as a classic attests. Hopefully, a lesson has been learned. The song isn't about religion; Kate Bush says it is about the misunderstandings that arise between men and women because of their differences. Still, the $uits feared that the lyrics would be interpreted as sacrilegious. They kind of are, actually — and that's why this song made it on this list (in addition to the fact that it is awesome).


Friday, 22 April 2016

Chop's Gigs - Late Feb to Early April

2016 is shaping up to be a serious years for gigs, after failing to cut back in the previous two I've let the shackles off a bit this year and I suspect I'll be well over my "no more than 2 gigs a month" limit. It's hard to cut back though when every gig I see is so good.

Laura J Martin at Servant Jazz Quarters on Wednesday 17th February 2016 - This was Laura's first headline gig for sometime though I have managed to catch her once already supporting Meilyr Jones. In her time away from the UK live scene she's been to Liverpool, Japan and most recently Nashville where she recorded her third album and first for new label Kartel. Matt Swanson and Tony Crow of Lambchop fame encouraged her to record out there with producer Mark Nevers who's worked with a host of bands but has a history with both Lambchop and Bonnie Prince Billy.

Ezra Furman at Brighton Concorde 2 on Thursday 18th February 2016 - Ezra and his band have been playing bigger venues than the C2 of late but by some cunning venue selection the C2 is the biggest venue I've seen them in so far. They look like a band that's thriving in the spotlight, growing more confident in their abilities and still having fun. It's a perfect mix and this might just be the best gig I've seen them do.

Savages at The Roundhouse on Thursday 17th March 2016 - Savages proved they are at the height of their powers right now. Tonight was just as good as that 100 Club show. I think I like the new album more than their debut, they've definitely added some really strong tunes to the set. The balcony sound was decent, and though I felt a little dislocated from gig, the view was pretty cool especially when Jehnny Beth went walkabout across the crowd.

Meilyr Jones at Rough Trade East on Tuesday 22nd March 2016 - My very first visit to Rough Trade East and I'm blown away by how big it is. Crikey, I could lose a week in here and quite possibly be bankrupt by the time I got out. This is my second Meilyr Jones gig of the year, it won't be the last, and is another "buy the album/get a free gig" deal which is a fabulous development in modern record purchase schemes.

Kiran Leonard at The Lexington on Monday 4th April 2016 - I saw Kiran a couple of years ago at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington. That was an enjoyable show but tonight Kiran and his band took things to a whole new level. Opening with the full seventeen minute version of Pink Fruit was a bold move and one that completely floored me.


Friday, 8 April 2016

Top 5 Instrumentals - Chop's Picks

Hot on the heels of last week's collaborative results these are my five favourite songs without singing. This turned out to be much harder than I expected. The collaborative vote is brilliant for flagging up tunes I've forgotten but in this instance highlighted just how many essential instrumentals exist. For every entry in my final top five there's another song I agonised about leaving out.

5. "Moya" Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Fifth place was a shoot out between two of my favourite bands, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai. Canadian post-rock collective versus Glaswegian post-rock punks. Both bands specialise in instrumental music which only made it harder for me to pick a stand out tune. Moya has long been my favourite GYBE track though and I really couldn't leave it out. Thanks to Wikipedia I've just found out it's a reworking of Polish composer Henryk Górecki's Third Symphony, which means I probably ought to track that down too.

4. "The Great Skua" British Sea Power - Originally a track from BSP's 2008 Mercury Music Prize nominated album Do You Like Rock Music?, it was then reworked as part of the band's soundtrack for the re-release of 1934 fictional documentary film Man of Aran. It's a soaring tune that works brilliantly with the black & white visuals and is simply magnificent live.

3. "Green Onions" Booker T & The MGs - This comfortably claimed the number one spot in the joint poll and rightly so. I got to know Booker T & the MGs via the Blues Brothers film and have loved them ever since. During the 60s & 70s they were the Stax Records house band and backed artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave & Carla Thomas on a string of hit records. At some point during the late eighties or early nineties I saw them play live, at the Town & Country Club, under the Blues Brothers Band banner. Incredibly Booker T & Steve Cropper are still active.

2. "Theme from Midnight Cowboy" John Barry - As a child of the seventies who grew up in thrall to James Bond films, I was bound to include something by John Barry in this list. As with most of these artists it was hard to pick a favourite but this theme for John Schlesinger's 1969 drama is immaculate. I'm particularly fond of Toots Thielemans' haunting harmonica though, apparently, John Barry did not feel the same way.

1. "Rumble" Link Wray - 1958 this was first released. Take a listen to that guitar sound. It's so big & powerful no wonder it was banned. Link Wray has been credited with pioneering the sound that would later form the foundation of heavy rock and it's easy to hear why.

I could comfortably have included two other Link Wray tunes in this top five, Ace of Spades came close, but I particularly enjoy Jack The Ripper so here's a bit of added Link for good luck.


Friday, 1 April 2016

Collaborative Top 5 Instrumentals - RESULTS

An epic vote with loads of contributions for which I can only say thank you. I wasn't expecting there to be a clear top 5 as it seemed that every top 5 included a completely different set of songs. This wasn't the end of the world though as I knew I'd still have a brilliant playlist of excellent Instrumentals.

The Shadows, Brian Eno, David Bowie & Mogwai all scored four entries each but failed to make the top 5 with an indivdual song, while the list spans music as diverse as 808 State, Bert Jansch, Rush and Duran Duran. I also have to mention the best named tune by Thee Cee Cees who provide the topically titled Iain Duncan Smiths Weeping Hemorrhoids. There's a link to a Spotify playlist lower down with more than 230 tunes on it. It's a fine soundtrack and I'd have been happy if that was the only outcome of this vote.

As it turned out, there were tunes that enough people voted for to provide a worthy top five. The top three were comfortably clear of the rest, whilst below 12th place there was very little to split the songs apart.

5. Ride "Grasshopper" - Originally the b-side for single Leave Them All Behind then the title track of a Japanese EP. This is an 11 minute tour de force.

4. Durutti Column "Sketch for Summer" - The most popular of three contenders from Vini Reilly's Manchester based band. This is the lead track for The Return of the Durutti Column, the band's debut studio album released in January 1990. I have to admit to little knowledge about this band but this has enticed me to investigate further.

3. Link Wray "Rumble" - Link Wray's notorious debut single, banned in 1958 for fear it might incite a riot. Link had two other entries in the list (Jack The Ripper & Ace of Spades) and they're just as good. Anyone who can get an instrumental tracked banned has to worth a listen.

2. New Order "Elegia" - Originally released on the band's third album, Low-Life, this was written in memory of former band mate Ian Curtis. The seventeen and a half minute full length version eventually came to light on a retrospective compilation.

1. Booker T and the MG's "Green Onions" - Debut single from the Stax house band, number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962 (despite having originally been put on the b-side of Behave Yourself).

Here's the Top 12;
1 Booker T and the MG's "Green Onions"
2 New Order "Elegia"
3 Link Wray "Rumble"
4 Durutti Column "Sketch for Summer"
5 Ride "Grasshopper"
6 Dick Dale "Miserlou"
7 Brian Eno "An Ending (Ascent)"
8 Rush "La Villa Strangiato"
9 British Sea Power "The Great Skua"
10 The Smiths "Oscillate Wildly"
11 Edgar Winter Group "Frankenstein"
12 The Tornadoes "Telstar"

Here's a Spotify playlist with most of the contenders;

Here's the full list in (more or less) alphabetical order;
808 State - Pacific State
A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Atomos VI
Adebisi Shank - Sensation
Aimee Mann - Nothing is good enough
Air - Ce Matin La
Air - La Femme D'Argent
Alasdair Roberts - Kilmahog Saturday Afternoon
Allman Bros - In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
Andrew Poppy - The Object is a Hungry Wolf
Aphex Twin - Ageispolis
Aswad - Warrior Charge
B. Bumple & The Stingers - Nut Rocker
Beach Boys - Let's Go Away For A While
Beastie Boys - Namaste
Beastie Boys - Sabrosa
Bentley Rhythm Ace - Bentleys Gonna Sort You Out
Bernard Herrmann - Taxidriver (Main Theme)
Bert Jansch - Angie
Beta Band - Rhododendron
Billy Joel - Root Beer Rag
Blondie - Europa
Bluetones, The - Blood Bubble
Blur - Intermission
Boards of Canada - Reach For The Dead
Boards of Canada - Roygbiv
Bob Mould - Sunspots
Bombskare - Fistful Of Dynamite
Booker T and the MG's - Green Onions
Booker T and the MG's - Time Is Tight
Boots Randolph - Yakety Sax
Brand X - Deadly Nightshade
Brian Eno - An Ending (Ascent)
Brian Eno - Another Green World
Brian Eno - Deep Blue Day
Brian Eno - Discreet Music
British Sea Power - Man of Aran
British Sea Power - The Great Skua
Brubeck - Take 5
Buzzcocks - Late for the train
Byrds - Stranger in a Strange Land
Cabaret Voltaire - Yashar
Camel - Lunar Sea
Captain Beefheart - Suction Prints
Chakachas - Jungle Fever
Champs, The - Tequila
Chantays, The - Pipeline
Charlatans - Theme from Wish
Chris Thile - The Beekeper
Clark - Banjo
Colourbox - The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme
Corduroy - Harry Palmer
David Bowie - A New Career In A New Town
David Bowie - Speed of Life
David Bowie - Neukoln
David Bowie - Warszawa
Death in Vegas - Dirge
Deep Purple - Wring That Neck
Depeche Mode - Nothing to Fear
Depeche Mode - Pimpf
Derek & Ray - Interplay
Dick Dale - Miserlou
Dirty Three - I Remember A Time When Once You Used To Love Me
Doves - Firesuite
Duane Eddy - Peter Gunn Theme
Duane Eddy - Shazam
Dubliners - Col Fraser & O'Rourke's Reel
Duran Duran - Tel Aviv
Duran Duran - Tiger Tiger
Durutti Column - All That Love & Maths Can Do
Durutti Column - Conduct
Durutti Column - Sketch for Summer
Eat Lights Become Lights - La Kraut III
Eddie Angel - Thunder
Edgar Winter Group - Frankenstein
Eels - Theme from Blinking Lights
EL&P - Fanfare for Command Man
Elton John - Funeral For A Friend
Ennio Morricone - Deborah's Theme ['Il Vizio di Uccidere']
Ennio Morricone - The Ecstasy of Gold
Explosions in the Sky - Your hand in mine
Faith No More - Woodpecker from Mars
Fantastic Something - 1000 Guitars of St. Dominiques
Felt - Buried wild blind
Felt - Textile Ranch
Field Mice - Tilting at windmills
Fleetwood Mac - Albatross
Fleetwood Mac - Underway
Focus - Hocus Pocus
Focus - Sylvia
Frank Zappa - Peaches en Regalia
Frazier Chorus - Spoonhead
Freddie King - Hideaway
Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
Galaxie 500 - Instrumental
Genesis - Los Endos
Genesis - The Brazilian
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Gathering Storm
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Moya
Goldfrapp - Oompa Radar
Gorky's Zygotic Mynky - Christmas Eve
Hank C Burnette - Spinning Rock Boogie
Hans Zimmer - You're so cool
Harold Faltermeyer - Axel F
Harry J & The Allstars - Liquidator
Hendrix - Star Spangled Banner
Herb Alpert - Lollipops & Roses
Inspiral Carpets - Memories Of You
Jackdaw With Crowbar - Scrape
Jakatta - American Dream
Jan Hammer - Miami Vice theme
Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene
Jean-Michel Jarre - Fourth Rendez-vous
Jeff Wayne - The Eve of War
John Barry - Midnight Cowboy
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - Hideaway
John Williams - Jurassic Park
John Williams - Star Wars Cantina
John Williams (Guitarist) - Cavatina (Theme from Deerhunter)
Johnny Harris - Paint it Black
Karma To Burn - 20
Karma To Burn - 34
Keith Jarrett & Jan Garbarek - Luminessence
King Curtis - Harlem Nocturne
Labradford - S
Led Zepplin - Moby Dick
Lilys - Everything Wrong is Imaginary
Link Wray - Ace of Spades
Link Wray - Jack the Ripper
Link Wray - Rumble
Lou Reed - Dorita
Louis Clark & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Hooked on Classics
Man or Astroman? - Evil Plans of Planet Spectra
Man Or Astroman? - Eric Estrotica
Manual - Keeps Coming Back
Meat Puppets - Maiden's Milk
Metallica - Orion
Miles Davis - Spanish Key
Mmoss - War Sux
Mogwai - Christmas Steps
Mogwai - Hungry Face
Mogwai - Mogwai fear Satan
Mogwai - Summer
Monochrome Set - Andiamo
Monty Norman - James Bond Theme (John Barry arrangement)
Mr Bloe - Groovin With Mr Bloe
Neu! - Hallogallo
Neutral Milk Hotel - Untitled (1998)
New Order - Elegia
Nice - Theme from Nice
Nik Colk Void - Gold 'E
Nils Frahm - Says
Oasis - The Swamp Song
Orbital - Remind
OXES - Kaz Hayashi '01
Paco de Lucia - Entre dos Aguas
Pell Mell - Blacktop
Penguin Café Orchestra - Prelude & yodel
Penguin Café Orchestra - Silver Star Of Bologna
Percy Faith - Theme From a Summer Place
Pernice Bros - Discover a Lovelier You
Phil Upchurch - You can't sit down
Pink Floyd - Any Colour You Like
Pink Floyd - Pow R Toc H
Pixies - Cecilia Ann
Plank! - King Rat I, II, III
Prong - Intermenstrual DSB
Punch Brothers - Kid A
PWEI - Pwei vs Dirty Harry
Rain Tree Crow - Big Wheels In Shanty Town
Rainbow - Weiss Heim
Real Estate - April's Song
REM - New Orleans Instrumental No. 1
Ride - Grasshopper
Righteous Brothers Band - Rat Race
Rob D - Clubbed To Death
Rodrigo y Gabriela - Hanuman
Roni Size - Bite The Bullet
Rush - La Villa Strangiato
Rush - The Main Monkey Business
Rush - YYZ
Ry Cooder - Dark End of the Street
Ry Cooder - Maria Elena
Santo & Johnny - Sleepwalk
Shadows, The - Apache
Shadows, The - Scotch on the Socks
Shadows, The - Stars Fell on Stockton
Shadows, The - Foot Tapper
Silver Jews - The Right To Remain Silent
Simon Park - Eye Level
Simple Minds - Theme For Great Cities
Siouxsie & The Banshees - Quarterdrawing Of The Dog
Slowdive - Avalyn 2
Small Faces - Almost Grown
Small Faces - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness
Smiths, The - Oscillate Wildly
Smiths, The - The Draize Train
Sonic Stealth Orchestra - A Design for Life
Steeleye Span - Robbery With Violins
Stephen Jones - Black Ice Cream
Steve Reich - Electric Counterpoint I-III
Stevie Ray Vaughn - Riviera Paradise
Stiff Little Fingers - go for it
Sub Sub (Doves) - Space Face
Surfaris - Waikiki Run
Surfaris - Wipe Out
Swanks - Ghost Train
Teenage Fanclub - Is This Music ?
The Beatles - 12 Bar Original
The Beatles - Flying
The Beta Band - Monolith
The Breeders - Flipside
The Busters - Bust Out
The Charlatans - Area 51
The Divine Comedy - Europe By Train
The Fall - Mansion
The Flower Kings - The Man Who Walked With Kings
The Go! Team - Everyone's a VIP to Someone
The Go! Team - Feelgood By Numbers
The Grifters - Fixed In The Sky
The Imprints - Free Ourselves
Smiths, The - Money Changes Everything.
The Wake - Brit Mix
Thee Cee Cees - Iain Duncan Smiths Weeping Hemorrhoids
Thee Milkshakes - Red Monkey
Tindersticks - Piano Music
Tired Arms - Ursa Minor
Tommy McCook - Starry Night
Tornadoes, The - Telstar
Van Halen - Eruption
Vangelis - Rachel's Song
Ventures - Little Green Bag
Ventures - Walk Don't Run
Willie Nelson - Bandera
Yann Tiersen - Comptine d'Un Autre Été: L'Après Midi
Young Marble Giants - Clicktalk
Zombi - DE3


Friday, 4 March 2016

Collaborative Top 5 Instrumentals - VOTE

If all has gone to plan I've kicked this off on Facebook & Twitter already.

Give me your favourite five Instrumental Songs from 1 to 5, or unordered if that's too difficult (just let me know).

I'm really thinking contemporary rock & pop but hit me with whatever you choose.

Vote closes Friday 25th March - Results out first Friday in April

This could be a bit tricky to narrow done to a clear top five but we'll give it a shot. Pass this on to all your friends and fingers crossed there will be a few obvious favourites. Failing that we'll just end up with a massive list of great instrumentals, which is cool too. Thanks for continuing to humour me and taking part.

Here's a Spotify playlist to help you decide;


Friday, 19 February 2016

Chop's Gigs - December, January & early February

Been a while since I posted one of these gig catch ups. I've still got a few to write up from 2015 so am trying my best to knock them out a bit quicker this year. I'm just about keeping up even if it does mean a few additional late nights.

Thee Oh Sees at The Forum on Monday 30th November 2015 - A sold out Forum was fairly rammed but as people rushed to the bar before the main band came on some space opened up and I found myself unexpectedly near the front. I love an energetic band, nearly all my favourite gigs have involved me leaping about like an idiot and leaving the venue soaked in sweat, but I'm getting on a bit and have already come a cropper once this year by getting carried away down the front. Within the first 30 seconds of the first song the front few rows had erupted and I was a lot nearer the back.

Meilyr Jones at Electrowertz on Wednesday 13th January 2016 - Meilyr Jones clicks his fingers and his band launch into a magnificent rendition of How To Recognise A Work Of Art. It's a pop powered kick to the gut. A song so perfect I can't hear it without wanting to dance (as evidenced shopping in Tesco just the other day). One of three singles that caught my attention last year and my 2nd favourite song of the year (Meilyr plays the 1st later in the set).

Savages at the 100 Club on Tuesday 26th January 2016 - A 5:30 alarm call and nothing but coffee to drink beforehand indicated this was not your run of the mill gig. A combined album/concert package via Sister Ray records in Berwick Street which doubled as the launch party for Savages new LP Adore Life. Sister Ray were very clear this would be an early morning show but it didn't really hit home until I was setting my alarm the night before. I don't get up this early for work. This probably says a lot about my life priorities though based on this evidence I've got them right.

Eleanor Friedberger at MOTH Club on Wednesday 3rd February 2016 - Eleanor has a talent for writing great pop songs. She makes great use of words to tell a story but never lets them get in the way of the tune. Considering how much effort it takes me to write these fairly shoddy gig reports I am in awe of someone who can use words so effectively and get them to fit within the limitations of a song. Eleanor seems at ease on stage though being at eye level with a room full of strangers must be a little intimidating. Not that it shows when she's singing.

Sauna Youth at The Forge on Saturday 13th February 2016 - Sauna Youth were a real blast of punk energy and it was a thrill to finally see them. Their 15 song set was over far too quickly though that's no complaint, they managed to play all my favourite tunes, just an indication I had a great time. In fact I spent most of the gig pogoing politely in what was an enthusiastic and friendly crowd.

Also, one gig I didn't make.

Lost Gigs: Motörhead at Hammersmith Odeon - As a teenage Metal Head I didn't really get into Motörhead, I had a best of (the one with the leather sleeve), but that was it. That meant at my peak of Metal and Rock gig attendance I never got to see them play. Oddly it was in the late 90s, when I was otherwise getting into Indie & Punk, that they suddenly caught my ear.


Friday, 12 February 2016

Top 5 Film Sequels - Chop's Picks

After last weeks' Collaborative Top 5 result here are my picks for the best film sequels of all time.

5. Mad Max II (1981) [d: George Miller] - I remember getting this from the video shop in Thames Ditton village. I think I might have even bought their copy a few years later when they were closing down. It's been a long time since I saw it but my memory suggests it might have been better than the original. It certainly benefited from a bigger budget and director George Miller took full advantage of that. If you're after a post apocalyptic landscape you'll not find many places more suitable than the Australian outback and the desert backdrops play as big a part in the success of this film as Mel Gibson and a bunch of leather clad mohawked bikers.

4. Kill Bill volume 2 (2004) [d: Quentin Tarantino] - Genuine sequel of the second half of a film released in two parts? I've gone with the former as I'm a huge Tarantino fan, though I've always wanted to see a proper full length version of Kill Bill.

3. French Connection II (1975) [d: John Frankenheimer] - The fictional sequel to the original 1971 film that was an adaption of a true story. Gene Hackman is superb as narcotics officer Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle. Sent to Marseilles to continue the chase for the drug gang leader he finds himself a fish out of water, though things go really awry when he is held captive by the gang and injected with Heroin.

2. The Godfather: Part II (1974) [d: Francis Ford Coppola] - My memory often lets me down regarding films and I realised discussing the overall vote last week that I can't entirely remember which bits happen in Part I and which in Part II. That aside I remember the whole epic story being a remarkable piece of cinema. Al Pacino is outstanding as Michael Corleone but it's the ensemble cast and intertwining stories that make the whole saga so believable.

1. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) [d: Irvin Kershner] - I've written about Star Wars before I'm sure. It was the biggest film of my childhood. I had Star Wars posters, Star Wars comics, Star Wars figures, Star Wars bubblegum cards and, my crowing glory, a Star Wars duvet & pillow set. I made my own light sabre out of cardboard, though it proved horribly ineffective in a fight with a plastic sword and had to be retired from active service. Anyway, by 1980 I had developed something of an obsession with the original film so you can imagine my excitement about a second film. Empire did not disappoint. A bit like Mad Max 2 it built on the original story but added a bigger budget that meant it looked more polished.


Friday, 5 February 2016

Collaborative Top 5 Film Sequels - RESULTS

A great response to this vote so huge thanks to everyone who gave me their five favourite sequels. The top 3 were no surprise and claimed a significant lead from the rest fairly early on. The Dark Knight just edged out Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with Toy Story 2 next in line. Perhaps both those films suffered from having similarly popular third instalments. The full list is at the bottom of the page so you can find out how your personal favourites did.

5. The Dark Knight (2008) [d: Christopher Nolan] - The second of Christopher Nolan's grittier Batman movies. A film that takes its cue from the best comic originals, particularly Alan Moore's excellent graphic novel The Killing Joke.

4. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) [d: James Cameron] - The film I was most surprised to see make the top five though I do remember being blown away by it when it first came out. Seven years after the first film Arnie is back as a goodie, a reprogrammed Terminator sent to protect John Connor from the liquid metal T-1000.

3. The Godfather: Part II (1974) [d: Francis Ford Coppola] - Francis Ford Coppola is not one for brevity, this sequel is a little over 3 hours and 15 minutes longer than Part I. Al Pacino takes centre stage in Coppola's ongoing tale of New York Mafia. It's worth your time and remains one of Pacino's very best performances. The first sequel to win the Oscar for Best Film.

2. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) [d: Irvin Kershner] - I reckon most of us are around the same age so Star Wars caught us all at an impressionable age. Though I love the original Star Wars movie, Empire benefits from higher production budgets, gets straight into the action and set's things up perfectly for part three. A strong claim to be the very best Star Wars movie.

1. Aliens (1986) [d: James Cameron] - I've not watched this for ages. I loved Ridley Scott's original and felt this lost some of the dramatic tension by making everything bigger and louder. Sigourney Weaver is excellent as Ellen Ripley though and earned a nomination for Best Actress at the time when science-fiction films rarely featured.

Here is the full list, a very impressive 77 sequels that all found a bit of love from someone.

P Film - Score
1 Aliens - 87
2 Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back - 82
3 Godfather II - 74
4 Terminator 2 - 51
5 Batman: The Dark Knight - 38
6 Lord of the Rings: Two Towers - 34
7 Toy Story 2 - 27
8 Die Harder - 15
9 Back To The Future part 2 - 14
9 For A Few Dollars More - 14
11 Evil Dead II - 13
11 Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan - 13
13 Bourne Supremacy - 12
13 Toy Story 3 - 12
13 French Connection II - 12
16 Kill Bill volume 2 - 11
17 Hunger Games: Catching Fire - 10
17 The Colour of Money - 10
19 Evil Dead: Army of Darkness - 9
20 Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom - 8
20 Lethal Weapon 2 - 8
20 Spider-Man 2 - 8
23 Star Trek: Into Darkness - 7
23 The Raid 2 - 7
25 After The Thin Man - 6
25 Alien 3 - 6
25 Aparajito - 6
25 Beverly Hills Cop 2 - 6
25 Conquest of the Planet of the Apes - 6
25 Escape from Planet of the Apes - 6
25 Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade - 6
25 Police Academy 2 - 6
25 Mad Max II - 6
34 Hannibal - 5
34 Jaws 2 - 5
34 Manon des Sources - 5
34 Rocky 2 - 5
34 Superman II - 5
34 The Two Jakes - 5
40 28 Weeks Later - 4
40 Bad Boys 2 - 4
40 Before Sunset - 4
40 Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey - 4
40 Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs - 4
40 Despicable Me 2 - 4
40 Die Hard with a Vengence - 4
40 Exorcist II: The Heretic - 4
40 Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets - 4
40 Meet The Fockers - 4
40 Night at the Museum 2 - 4
40 Omen 2 - 4
40 Rec 2 - 4
40 Star Trek: First Contact - 4
40 The Best Marigold Hotel 2 - 4
40 Twilight: New Moon - 4
56 Batman Returns - 3
56 Dawn of the Dead - 3
56 Evangelion 2.22 - 3
56 Exorcist III - 3
56 Futureworld - 3
56 Home Alone 2 - 3
56 Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - 3
56 Matrix Reloaded - 3
56 Predator 2 - 3
56 Psycho II - 3
56 Rambo 2 - 3
67 Austin Powers 2 - 2
67 Bride of Frankenstein - 2
67 Captain America: Winter Soldier - 2
67 Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season - 2
67 Mad Max: Fury Road - 2
67 More American Graffiti - 2
67 Penguins of Madagascar - 2
67 Resident Evil 2 - 2
67 Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - 2
67 The Hangover 2 - 2
67 Tron: Legacy - 2


Friday, 29 January 2016

Top 5 Albums of 2015

Wrapping up my review of 2015 with a repeat of my Top 5 Albums of the year. I got a bit carried away with the Songs & Albums run down before Christmas and ran out of time to write my own words so here are my favourite albums from a remarkable year in music. The top three here were all contenders for number one and the other two entries snuck ahead of at least ten contenders for a top 5 spot.

5. Sleater-Kinney "No Cities To Love" - The first album in 10 years for one of my favourite bands was bound to strike a chord with me and this was no disappointment. It's a little difficult to be objective so soon after release but I think No Cities To Love compares really well with Sleater-Kinney's best albums. A clear successor to their last LP, and the album that really got me into the band, 2005's The Woods. There are 10 songs on here and they all sound fantastic. I really love Sleater-Kinney and if you've not heard them this is a good a place as any to start.

4. Thee Oh Sees "Mutilator Defeated At Last" - Thee Oh Sees have been on the periphery of my music radar for quite a few years. They sounded like the sort of band I ought to like but for whatever reason I'd not managed to go and investigate further. When 6music started playing The Web, the first single from this album (at least I think it was a single, are they still a thing or do we just have playlist tracks now?), I wasn't blown away. But, Marc Riley in particular kept playing it and it began to seep into my consciousness. By the time I bought the album I was very much on-side but that still didn't prepare me for how preposterously great the album would be. I've started working backwards through their catalogue now and it's not a one off. Another amazing band to add to my collection.

3. Ezra Furman "Perpetual Motion People" - Ezra came to my attention in 2013 with the Day of the Dog album. That blew me away and led to me catching him live early the following year. The songs on Perpetual Motion People took a while to win me over. Perhaps they're not quite as raucous as the previous LP (and I'm a big fan of raucous) but they grew on me pretty quick and show a real maturity in Ezra's songwriting. Though the musical vibe is very upbeat some of the lyrical themes are both personal and soul baring. In particular Body Was Made which hints at the Ezra's non-binary status and, my favourite tune on the record, Ordinary Life which gives clear indications about coping with depression. Ezra deserves to be a huge star and if you ever get the chance to see him live I guarantee you'll leave with a massive smile on your face.

2. BC Camplight "How To Die In The North" - This was my record of the year for so long, in many ways it's still first equal. Brian Christinzio has been around for some time but relocated to Manchester in 2011 after a period of health issues. Having nearly quit music he rediscovered his passion in the UK and the songs that make up this album began to take shape. I'd heard some of these tunes as far back as 2013. You only need one listen to work out why the album took so long to arrive. It's immaculate, hints of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in both vocal style and instrumentation but still very much a work that speaks volumes of its creator.

1. LoneLady "Hinterland" - Although I'm sure the influences might be there, to my ears this sounded like something new and fresh. LoneLady is another solo project, Julie Campbell originally performing genuinely solo with just a drum machine for company. For this album she has added a full band and the songs sound all the better for it. Julie's spiky, angular guitar lines are the seam that run through the whole album but there's a real groove to the sound. It's not dance music but it's music you can dance to. I'm not sure I've found the words to explain why this is number one but throughout the year this has been the one album to remain a constant on my playlist.