'Cake is a made up drug.'

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - Mini-review

(written for Sonar magazine)

Fuck, YES.

I should perhaps say a little more, this being a review and all but as I emerged from the darkness of the cinema, happy and a little dazed, these words were the first to float through my mind - glowing, pixelated and making lovely little electronic noises. The word 'epic' is thrown around a lot of late (four times in the tag-line alone) but Edgar Wright's latest offering really does deserve the self-proclaimed mantel.

Wright's career arch so far has, with the help of select members of the British comedy elite, managed to hone in on everything brilliant about pop-culture in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and exploited these tropes to create films which are at once glittering homages but also exquisitely unique, usually poignant films in their own right. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz took their respective genres and gave them and absurdly British twist, the humour was so British in fact that when I heard Mr. Wright was now working on an American film I had worried that this brilliant flavour would be lost.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, although reaching for a wider audience still retains most of the aspects of the director's previous flicks that made them work so well. The quirky camera moves (nodding firmly at Sam Raimi), the spot-on comedy timing, superb casting and above all the element that fan boys like myself loved so much about his earliest work - the TV series Spaced – a knack of tapping so accurately into a generation's worth of cultural/counter cultural references and in-jokes whilst essentially telling a heart felt story about two people.

This time taking on the comic-book film, Wright's directorial style is complemented by some of the most stunning visuals and on-screen ticks of any film I've seen (I'd like to coin the term 'eye-gasm' to describe the feeling). Whilst some of the earlier dialogue may seem a little stilted, by the time the film gets going, what grates slightly earlier on just seems to fit so well. Couple this with a blistering soundtrack full of fuzzy-bass rock n' roll and lovingly crafted electronic bleepiness and the combined acting talent on show here (Kieran Culkin is especially good) and you have a film that only the most po-faced of snobs could not like. This movie is fun in all the ways that Kick-Ass wasn't.

And apparently it's struggling to find an audience so for christ's sake put this down now and go and pay money to see it, don't just wait to thieve it later. Represent for your generation.

5/5 Golden Coins.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Review #1 - First Aid Kit @ Hamptons (Southampton)

This is my first in hopefully a continuing line of reviews of the local gigs I manage to catch. They'll mainly be Southampton based. Enjoy.

First Aid Kit @ Hamptons – Sunday 7th March 2010

First things first – I can't quite believe these girls were playing on a Sunday night in Hamptons as a free show. It always has a great atmosphere in there – more like a front room than a venue and Sundays are always a pretty relaxed affair, so to see it so completely packed out would have been surprising if I hadn't heard any of First Aid Kit's tracks before hand. I had, however. So I dragged as many people I could muster out with me on the promise it would be a great show - thankfully I wasn't wrong.

A quick scan of their myspace tour list so far might go some way to explaining my shock and delight to see them for free – Bristol SOLD OUT. London SOLD OUT. Brighton SOLD OUT. Then in the next few weeks they're off to the Texas industry event South by Southwest (SxSW) where with a bit of luck they'll get the exposure they dearly deserve. These sisters really do make some lovely noises. So, for whatever reason, Southampton seemed to strike it lucky getting to see them in such an up-close-and-personal venue, and the night started in a suitably sweet and strange fashion.

The band,  Johanna and Klara Söderberg and their tour drummer (who was great but unfortunately I can't remember his name) take to the stage and begin tuning up. After a little while, though, they start to look a little confused - the music in the venue just won't die. So our first few minutes with F.A.K are spent with them shouting at the back of the room in Swedish and speaking into microphones that were silent. Bemused, Klara, explains in her American tinged accent that we're having a few technical hitches, and this thing might have to turn into a play instead. A cigarette's pause later, the room thankfully falls silent and they launch into their first song.

On their myspace page, First Aid Kit describe themselves as Gary Numan if he'd made folk music. This, despite being brilliantly tongue in cheek, is underselling themselves. What initially strikes you, apart from Klara's startlingly powerful and beautiful voice is the old-soul potency of their lyrics. Jesus, they're my age. (EDIT: No they're not, they're younger than me. This is scary.) These are songs that are not just from the heart but speak of pain and worldy-ness that goes beyond hipster folk, the blues tinged breaks in her voice tip them into something else, something for want of a better word, real.

The second song after their fast paced opener is the first I heard from them – 'Hard Believer'. Lines like 'I see you've got your bible/your delusion imagery/I don't need your eternity or meaning to feel free' instantly speak to my inner atheist but when followed up with 'I just live because I love to and that's enough you see/don't preach about morality that's just human sense to me' I fall a little bit in love. In one verse they seem to have summed up my feelings on humanism and religion, and not in a teenage 'fuck you' sort of way, just simply, sweetly and with dignity.

The rest of the night goes off, as much as a folk gig can – the audience a mixture of rapt silence and screaming whooping applause. Highlights include the stand out 'Heavy Storm', and 'Sailor Song', but to be honest the set list has become a bit of a brilliant blur, although little moments stand out clearly: A weirdly charming rant about how great Marks & Spencer (“Maarrxx unt Sparrx”) is; “we're not being sponsored by them, honestly” insists Klara. She has a natural, inbuilt charisma, breaking off now and then to chuckle at themselves ("First Aid Kit - jesus what a name!") or us - a filthy request shouted out in Swedish is met with a simple "Er.. no. I won't do that."

Telling the audience to be real quiet the two come out from behind the microphones and keyboard to play a fully acoustic number ('Winter is All Over') and it is utterly haunting, and the closer, one of my personal favourites from their début album, 'I Met Up With A King' marks a fitting end to the set.

Cheers for more get us a Fleet Foxes cover and then suddenly it's all over. If you haven't heard them already get in there quick – if you like bands like Cat Power or Fleet Foxes these girls are right up your alley. And even if you don't, listen to them anyway, you may be surprised. Plus, this may be your last chance to have 'liked them when they were underground, man.'


Hello you strange world.

I have finally started to attempt to keep track of things via one of these new fangled weblogs.

This is a prototype - it is not likely to remain the same but will be an experiment, a work in progress to see if it finds a structure, initially to house some reviews before they find their place in a magazine.

Watch this space. Or don't. You know, do what you feel.

Oh - and if for some unknown reason, you don't get the name watch this:

And if you still don't get it, go away. You're not welcome on these shores.