25 Aug 2016
in Film Review
Tags: cheeky gags, cheeky jokes, comedy, david brent, david brent: life on the road, film, films, folk, foregone conclusion, hired guns, immaturity, lacking, lady gypsy, lavichem, life on the road, loose, mean, mean-spirited humour, mockumentary, movie, no stephen merchant, review, reviews, ricky gervais, rock, sales rep, spiteful gags, spiteful jokes, the entertainer, the office, tour of slough, tv series, underwritten supporting characters, wernham-hogg manager
We all know a David Brent. The original Brent (played toe-curlingly well by Ricky Gervais) was the major reason for The Office’s success, and though it’s been over 13 years since the program’s Christmas special aired and tied up all those loose ends, Brent the “entertainer” has resurfaced. The world might have changed, but Brent hasn’t.
Life On The Road takes the lead from the mockumentary style of the TV series, but it’s not The Office: The Movie. The film features none of the original cast of characters save for Brent, and Gervais’ fellow writer and The Office’s co-creator Stephen Merchant played no part in this project. However, despite the trouble that such a dearth suggests, thankfully the film is not the disaster it could have been.
Mr. Brent is now a sales rep at Lavichem, a company that sells cleaning and personal hygiene products, but he’s still an idiot clutching at dreams of rock stardom. Eventually, following his dreams, he cashes in his pension and assembles a group of hired guns to perform as his backing band for a tour of Slough. The only problem is his bandmates hate him (he even has to pay them to drink with him) and the tour is a shambles and whirlwind of humiliation for the former manager of Wernham-Hogg.
This film sees Gervais continuing to straddle the lines between cheeky jokes and gags that are plain spiteful and mean-spirited. If you weren’t a fan of the TV show then this is not a film for you. Brent has not grown as a character: in fact, he’s more of a caricature than ever, and his affected immaturity is still easily his defining character note.
Ultimately, the film has some strong gags, and is filled with songs that are enjoyably bad. Brent’s backing band, the Foregone Conclusion, are slapdash in all the right ways and their folk/rock stylings are enjoyably middle-of-the-road. A tune like ‘Lady Gypsy’ is a crystallised version of Brent’s character: all swagger and stiffness.
That said, the supporting characters are underwritten, and there are moments that feel loose, and not properly thought out. There are still times when the original wit and humour of the television show feels lacking: gaps that may very well leave you wanting to go back and enjoy the original show in order to get your entertainment fix.
Originally published on 24 August 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/david-brent-life-road
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11 Mar 2015
in Album Review
Tags: album, albums, alien, ariel pink, baritone guitar, black, dark, emotional, folk, french, gothic, heartbreak, indie, keaton's song, lo-fi, loss, melancholy, music, my dreams dictate my reality, new wave, ocean of tears, peter pan syndrome, pop, record, review, reviews, ross robinson, second, soko, sophomore, Stéphanie ‘Soko, Stéphanie Sokolinski, vampire, who wears the pants??, witch
Stéphanie ‘Soko’ Sokolinski is a self-confessed witch, vampire and alien. She often sounds like she’s lived a lifetime of melodrama, yet she’s just 29. Her second studio album is an open-book account of the above and includes a cameo from Ariel Pink. The self-taught French musician originally built a reputation on lo-fi, indie folk tunes. On her latest record, ‘Keaton’s Song’ is the only track to resemble her earlier work.
Love, heartbreak and loss are big themes on this album. It’s no surprise that Soko’s favourite artists are Robert Smith and Morrissey, with many album tracks resembling The Cure’s dark sound. Ross Robinson (The Cure) produced this record and Soko used a baritone guitar, just like Smith. Soko’s music is not particularly original, but what it lacks in creativity it makes up for in attitude, like in the broody and mischievous ‘Ocean Of Tears’. There’s also the sunny-sounding gay rights anthem, ‘Who Wears The Pants??’, before ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ makes us realise how insecure and frightened of commitment Soko is, despite being steadfast in refusing to conform.
Soko’s second album is raw, retro-sounding and personal. It may not be groundbreaking, but this is definitely emotional enough in laying one gothic soul to bare.
Originally published on 10 March 2015 at the following website: http://www.thebrag.com/music/soko-my-dreams-dictate-my-reality
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04 Dec 2014
in EP Review
Tags: ballad, blackbird, co-written, dan sultan, demos, dirty ground, emotional, EP, eps, folk, gullible few, honest, humble, mature, mountaintop, music, outtakes, paul dempsey, paul kelly, piano ballad, raw, review, reviews, singer-songwriter, six songs, smoky, storyteller, stripped back, the same man
Dan Sultan’s latest EP Dirty Ground draws together a collection of demos and outtakes from his latest Blackbird record, all tracked in a single day.
The six songs actually have a lot more in common with The Beatles’ song of the same name, because here Sultan moves away from his soulful rock’n’roll sound to focus on raw, stripped-back folk music.
The title track is outstanding, an aching ballad co-written with Paul Kelly that manages to be both catchy and relatable. The same cannot be said for ‘Mountaintop’, which was co-written with Paul Dempsey. It sees Sultan’s beautiful, smoky voice pleading with the listener, but it also contains overly simplistic and repetitive lyrics delivered with a quiet hush, making it too sparse.
‘The Same Man’ and the piano ballad ‘Gullible Few’ originally appeared on Blackbird, but the former – written in Nashville – is offered here in an acoustic version. Both are solid inclusions to the collection.
Dirty Ground sees Sultan produce some mature, emotional and honest songs that will charm fans who like it best when he plays the humble storyteller.
Originally published on 2 December 2014 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/dan-sultan-dirty-ground
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03 Apr 2014
in DVD Review
Tags: 2013, acoustic, acoustic guitar, Barbara Streisand, born free, brian may, charity single, concert, cover, covers, crazy little thing called love, dust in the wind, dvd, dvds, folk, freddie mercury, i who have nothing, instrumental, jeff leach, kerry ellis, live at montreux, lost horizon, montreux jazz festival, nothing really has changed, pop, queen, Queen guitarist, raw, respectful, review, reviews, rock, sensitive, solo, somebody to love, something, staple, stravinski auditorium, stripped back, the candelight concerts, touching, we will rock you
Queen guitarist, Brian May and West End and Broadway songstress, Kerry Ellis are no strangers to touring together. The pair first performed shows together in 2011 and have since gone on to release a single and play more dates in the UK and Europe, and all of this culminated in a show at Montreux Jazz Festival in 2013. The concert was recorded and filmed and will now be released on CD, DVD and Blu-ray.
The Candlelight Concerts – Live at Montreux was designed to be like having two talented artists performing together in your house. The backdrop on stage and the set has some candles and the night begins with a reverential air. This subsequently closes in to transform the Stravinski auditorium into a warm and intimate space with the process seeming like a large hug. May and Ellis do an excellent job of engaging the audience with engrossing and informative dialogue that only adds to the close, family-like atmosphere of the proceedings.
The pair perform a raw, stripped back set with May playing mostly acoustic but occasionally the electric guitar and they are joined by Jeff Leach on keys. The group perform Queen songs plus old standards and covers. There is a great chemistry between the artists and this translates into a good sense of feeling and emotion underpinning this beautiful and atmospheric pop/rock music.
May does an excellent job of wringing all sorts of emotion out of his guitar playing while Ellis’ gorgeous voice is full of theatrics (no doubt a result of her day job). ‘I Who Have Nothing’ is a romantic start to the show and a sweet ballad before the prophetic and profoundly sad Kansas cover, ‘Dust In The Wind’. May and Ellis then perform their charity single, ‘Born Free’ (a track made famous by Barbara Streisand) which is accompanied by excerpts from a video featuring animals filmed in Africa. Animal conservation and welfare is a topic that is close to both of the stars’ hearts and this is especially obvious during “Nothing Really Has Changed” (this song appears twice with the second version being a bonus track).
The classic Beatles song, ‘Something’ is performed well, as May plays some sublime acoustic guitar but sadly Ellis has changed the lyrics so that she could sing it about a man (rather than George Harrison’s then love, Pattie Boyd) and this makes it a tad hollow. The Brian May solo staple and instrumental, ‘Lost Horizon” is also performed and while poignant and sad in its build-up, it does at times verge on indulgence. The numbers that received the best reception of the night were undoubtedly the Queen favourites, ‘Somebody To Love’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ (the latter an all-stomping sing-along for the Queen fans in the audience).
Brian May and Kerry Ellis’ performance at Montreux is an engaging show that is full of sensitive and touching moments, especially when they play such respectful tributes to some late, great musicians (like Freddie Mercury and George Harrison). This intimate concert is a grand spectacle that is full of feeling and above all, has an amazing atmosphere. This means it is the sort of show that people will want to enjoy and share more than once.
Originally published on 3 April 2014 at the following website: http://sfmedia.com.au/brian-may-kerry-ellis-the-candlelight-concerts-live-at-montreux-2013-dvd-review/
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27 Feb 2014
in Album Review
Tags: activism, activist, album, albums, beats, blame i on me, blues rock number, byron luiters, collaborative effort, devil woman, dub, emotional, flesh & blood, flesh and blood, folk, heartfelt, hip-hop, honest, human, john butler, john butler trio, livin' in the city, love, melbourne ska orchestra, music, nicky bomba, number 6, number six, only one, personal, pop, record, records, review, reviews, rock, romantic, singer-songwriter, single, wings are wild, young & wild, young and wild
On album number six, John Butler takes a step off his social and political soapbox to sip wine at the altar of love.
Flesh & Blood is Butler’s most collaborative effort to date. To give you a taste, there’s the catchy single, ‘Only One’; the high-energy, blues rock number ‘Devil Woman’; and the dub, ‘Blame It On Me’, co-written from jams with his tight-knit bandmates Byron Luiters and Nicky Bomba (who has since left the group to focus on Melbourne Ska Orchestra).
Across 11 tracks, Butler stills sings with his occasionally gentle and sometimes feisty lead vocals, and the music boasts funky grooves and rhythms that touch on the rock, folk, pop, and hip-hop styles.
The singer-songwriter has definitely spread his wings a little with this album, adding extra layers and programmed beats to his folk songs and acknowledging that his lyrical inspiration was from other people (like the young, junkie couple that inspired ‘Young & Wild’). But despite this apparent departure, Butler remains true to his old form while also sounding fresh and keeping things personal, honest, and emotional.
‘Wings Are Wide’ is the best example of this, a raw love song that was written from his late grandmother’s perspective, and a tune that encapsulates the decades she mourned for her late husband.
Flesh & Bone is a full and meaty record that, while diverse and varied, does overstay its welcome a little, especially when lyrical clichés are offered up in ‘Livin’ In The City’. But despite some minor flaws, what’s left behind is a very true and human album where the well of inspiration proves to be deep, rich, and plentiful.
Originally published on 25 February 2014 at the following website: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/reviews/new-music/388090/flesh-blood.htm
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31 Jan 2014
in Arts Review, Live Review
Tags: a day in the life, activist, all you need is love, arts, aunt mimi, Beatles songs, beautiful boy, blues, come together, crazy, emotion, England, folk, help! woman, humour, imagine, intelligence, jealous guy, john lennon, john lennon in words and music, john waters, live, liverpool, liverpool lullaby, looking through a glass onion, lucy in the sky with diamonds, may pang, musician, Norwegian Wood, overture, Paul McCartney, play school, pop, pop star, review, reviews, revolution, scouser's lament, stewart dárrietta, strawberry fields forever, the ballad of john & yoko, the ballad of john and yoko, the beatles, the riots, theatre, tribute, warm, Working Class, working class hero, writer, yoko ono, you've got to hide your love away
Tribute bands can be a dime a dozen and little more than a glorified radio or stereo. But then there are acts like John Waters. He has been performing his John Lennon tribute since 1992 and has also done a six-month stint in London’s West End with the show. And it’s easy to see why it continues to appeal, because Waters really gets at the essence – the heart and soul of Lennon – through an excellent mix of personal anecdotes and the music, of course.
Waters is no stranger to the stage and screen, having performed on Play School for almost 20 years and racking up over four decades in the entertainment business. He is one of those rare triple threats in that he can sing, dance and act and as he proved at the Opera House, he can also play some fine acoustic guitar. (The first ever audience Waters faced was as a singer and bass guitar player in The Riots, a London-based blues band in the sixties. It is unsurprising that some of the arrangements of Lennon’s Beatles songs and solo material were also given the blues treatment).
The show began with Lennon’s childhood in working class Liverpool with the pieces, “Overture – Scouser’s Lament” and “Liverpool Lullaby”. They were sung and performed on the piano by Stewart D’Arrietta and were a throwback to when Lennon was raised by his Aunt Mimi. John Waters then entered the stage for a mind-blowing, “A Day In The Life”. The first obvious thing was that Looking Through A Glass Onion was not about flashy costumes. Waters was dressed in a black leather jacket and dark jeans throughout, making him resemble Lennon during his early Hamburg days rather than when he was well-known as an international pop star.
There was virtually no backdrop, save for a psychedelic piece which was really only used for “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. Instead, the focus was on the songs, some played in full and others just excerpts (which meant they were never really given the opportunity to overstay their welcome). They were interwoven with Lennon’s story with the lighting also modified to add to the storytelling effect. Waters tried to keep the narration chronological but some of it was changed around for greater, artistic effect and the set list was ordered so that the songs fit a theme and event rather than focusing too heavily on when it was written.
Waters was convincing as Lennon, as he spoke in a perfect Scouser accent and delivered anecdotes with the same wit and wisdom as the Great Beatle himself. As Lennon, he was self-deprecating and funny, with talk of wearing the same underpants as everyone else, despite the fame and comparisons to songwriters like Bob Dylan. Waters also captured John Lennon’s singing voice beautifully, at times doing the raw and raspy blues snarl of his early recordings through to the melodic and smooth tones of his later pop songs.
“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” signalled Lennon’s departure away from writing gobbledegook numbers. “Working Class Hero” built on this, especially when Waters described the guitar as the ultimate street-fighting weapon. This rendition was faster and was almost like a honky-tonk tune that seemed more layered, than the rough, stripped-back original.
The show touched on Lennon’s initial meeting with Paul McCartney, The Beatles’ fame and their acrimonious break-up (it’s one that Lennon said was beaten up by the press). There was the controversial incident when Lennon said The Beatles were bigger than Jesus and their amazing love song which followed, “All You Need Is Love”. A lot of material was covered about the man who appealed to people’s pop sensibilities and who was once considered a radical (his political activities with Yoko Ono and other activists resulted in his being watched by the F.B.I). Lennon was ultimately a chameleon and Waters put it best when he said that if every song of Lennon’s had been a specific reflection of his character, he’d have something like 27 personalities!
D’Arrietta was excellent in his accompanist role. He used a stomp box to give some power to the blues arrangement of “Revolution”, he strummed an autoharp to take us to the Maharishi’s India and he did a broody version of “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the piano. “The Ballad Of John & Yoko” was played in much the same manner as the original (at least insofar as the number of personnel on hand). “Jealous Guy” was absolutely sublime and gorgeous, especially as it was described around Lennon’s lost weekend with May Pang. Similarly, “Beautiful Boy” was heartfelt and a lullaby to the son that he and Yoko never though they’d be able to have.
John Lennon was often thought of as a pop star, writer, musician, activist, guru and teacher and Looking Through A Glass Onion captured ever single facet of the jewel that was his short but rich life. The show went for almost two hours with an interval and it received a warm applause from the audience, as they were touched by Waters’ portrayal of Lennon, especially the humour, craziness, intelligence and emotion. The finale was the unsurprising but rousing “Imagine”, a minimalist version that started off in darkness and slowly saw the two performers’ faces being illuminated. It was a good way to sum up this intimate and highly personal evening. Waters and D’Arrietta had pulled back the curtain on Lennon’s life and allowed us a glimpse at his body, mind and spirit and allowed it all to shine on in a grand, pop symphony.
Looking Through A Glass Onion Sydney set list (NB: this list only contains the original Lennon and Beatles songs performed):
1. A Day In The Life
2. Glass Onion
3. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
4. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
5. Working Class Hero
6. How Do You Sleep?
7. Norwegian Wood
8. All You Need Is Love
9. I’m So Tired
11. Sexy Sadie
12. Come Together
13. Strawberry Fields Forever
15. Nowhere Man
19. The Ballad Of John & Yoko
20. Crippled Inside
23. Jealous Guy
24. Watching The Wheels
25. Beautiful Boy
Originally published on 30 January 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/sydney/review/john-lennon-looking-through-a-glass-onion-by-john-waters-28-01-14
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