Category Archives: 5 stars

Siren

Easily my favourite Roxy Music album, Siren contains so many fantastic songs. There are other albums that I love to bits yet are not so consistent. Yet with Siren, all but very few songs are excellent. With the possible exception of End of the Line, I never skip its songs if they come up on Shuffle.

Although, being a member of the iTunes generation, I rarely listen to albums straight and always play tracks on Shuffle from a large (1000 tracks or more) playlist, I really enjoy listening to Siren straight. Take Shuffle off, play Love is the Drug and don’t stop until Just Another High (well, unless there’s something really pressing!). The album just works so well as a coherent and continuing whole (although I am often tempted to repeat tracks).

Definitely my favourite song on the album would be She Sells. There are not many songs that I know of that grab the listener in the first picosecond and actually continue into a song (rather than a jingle). For me, the piano intro is just the best thing there is and the short bursts of syncopation in the verse is powerfully driving. The double-time towards the end also works, although the fade-out at the end of the song is a tad unsatisfying considering its powerful beginning.

The next favourite is Sentimental Fool, which begins a bit like something by The Mars Volta. A lengthy (about two and a half minutes!) introduction leads into silky smooth, almost dreamy vocals. The middle of the song is nice but nothing fantastic; however, the last bit (from spooky piano bit on) is hypnotic, mesmerizing. The ending is a bit of a suprise and terminates while you’re waiting for a bit more. But hey! That’s what the next song, Whirlwind is for (provided you are listening to the album– one of the main reasons this is more satisfying than Shuffle).

I could go on about every song, but I’d rather not, because then I’d never get to sleep (and only a masochist would read it all anyway). Readers please note just because I haven’t detailed each song on the album, it doesn’t mean they’re not as good. I just don’t feel I could say as much about them. It suffices to say that Siren is a very good album (have I said that before?). In short, Bryan Ferry‘s voice and music is fantastic, all the songs on the album are favourites of mine (apart from End of the Line, which I consider nothing special)– they are both interesting musically and have a good feel. I think that’s important; because you can have music that is “interesting” from a theoretical viewpoint, but they don’t “feel good”. Ferry hits the note (literally and figuratively) with the songs on Siren. 5 Stars.

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Cat Empire (with Blue King Brown, The Beautiful Girls, Ash Grunwald): Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 4 Feb 2008

When I saw the tickets advertised in the Sun the day they came out, I just knew I had to go. Unfortunately, it took a while to organise people and buy the tickets, so we ended up with Reserved Row S tickets (which I guess were pretty good). Only managed to catch the last 10 or so minutes of Ash Grunwald‘s act, due to the lengthy line and the fact we only arrived half an hour or so before gates opened. Though not a fan of his music, his enthusiam (and obvious skill) was good to see.

Shortly after, The Beautiful Girls started playing. I was quite disappointed (having heard good things about them) and went off to purchase a souvlaki. Their music was entirely bland and unoriginal, consisting of very little more than a couple of basic chords and dull bass lines– what one might expect of a high school band. The next act more than made up for the disappointment of The Beautiful Girls. Blue King Brown were fantastic as usual (this being the fourth time I’d seen them). A fantastic synthesis of many musically talented individuals, through whose music came an incredible sense of rhythm and fun. Especially impressive was the percussion section- the drummer and percussionist had an incredible sense of rhythm. They did a fantastic job of priming the crowd for the main item.

The Cat Empire were amazing. The talented musicianship, intense rhythms, catchy melodies and the pervading sense of a good time communicated through their albums pales in comparison to what is delivered by a live show. Although there was a focus on songs from the newest album So Many Nights, it was fantastic to see they did not neglect their earlier crowd-pleasing masterpieces. Unfortunately (but obviously), they played their worst-ever song No Longer There (the flaccidity of which is incomprehensible compared to their otherwise excellent body of work). Extended improvisations from the Empire Horns (Ross Irwin and Kieran Conrau on trumpet and trombone respectively), the virtuostic Ollie McGill on keys and drummer Will Brown were a fantastic addition to the well-known studio-recorded tracks. Highlights of the show included the four dancers during Sly and the two dancers (featuring guest guitarist and percussionist) during Two Shoes, which was a visual treat. The night was powerfully ended by the encores: new track The Darkness and all-time favourite The Chariot (which we were to sing/hum/whistle for the rest of the night). A fantastic night out, supported by amazingly talented Blue King Brown and others. Much more than well worth the $65 ticket price!!

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Mulholland Drive

Here it is. The first real post. I think I’ll start with a review. A review of a very interesting film. It’s not the kind of film you watch, but rather the kind of film you are told to (or made to) watch and thereafter you spend your time trying to make everybody else watch it so they can share in the experience– and subsequently lose all your friends (“Oh no! He’s brought the DVD again!”). So in some ways, its like The Ring (the Japanese horror film, that is; not the main plot device of Tolkien’s epic trilogy), except people rarely die while watching it. A movie review would also be good because it would give me an excuse to put in a picture or two and brighten up this otherwise fairly monotone blog. The film? David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. (link to Rotten Tomatoes website for reviews)

Having only seen Lynch’s work in Blue Velvet, I was by no means prepared for the type of film that Mulholland Drive was. In contrast to the former, which while certainly featuring Lynchesque weirdness and the recurring theme of the darkness which underlies the veneer of society, but follows a conventional narrative structure; the latter is so disjointed and confusing that it is impossible to understand what is happening until (perhaps) the very end of the film; and even then only if you have an experienced viewer of the film or a guide to the film handy. 

For those who haven’t seen the film, I can attempt to explain it in terms of other films: Nolan’s Memento follows an achronological narrative (scenes of no more than five minutes, starting at the end and moving backward through time, interspersed with expository flashbacks– in order to reflect the protagonist’s fractured consciousness), Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction consists of six achronological vignettes, not giving the viewer the full picture until the end but still straightforward; and Iñárritu’s 21 Grams consists of a fractured narrative, which, taken together (as the reader’s mind does by the end of the film) forms a non-contradictory whole.
However, Mulholland Drive is a whole different kettle of fish. Without giving too much away (and spoiling the fun!), the film’s surrealist bent and contradictions puzzle the viewer throughout (I know I was begging for answers!) and even at the end may be interpreted in a myriad of ways. The contradictions cause the viewer to question what is, in fact, real- both in the narrative of the film, and in life (going back to the Lynchian favourite: appearance vs reality). 

 

The film is dark and frighening, particularly so for its constrast of the ridiculously sunny, romantized Hollywood dream to the torturous labyrinth of what lies beneath. The use of dreams and illusion both contributes to the appearance/reality dichotomy and the sense of frightening uncertainness: more nightmare than dream. In this way, it is similar to Blue Velvet, but in terms of its complexity, is in a league of its own. As in Blue Velvet, the soundtrack is expertly utilised to manipulate mood and create an aura of mystery.

 

It is difficult to review a film such as this because it is notoriously difficult to explain without giving too much away and ruining the fun. However, I do highly recommend it; although I warn that you must be in the mood for a fairly long film (146 minutes) and that it is essential to watch and pay attention to the entire film, owing to Lynch’s penchant for detail. Keep in mind that you will be confused throughout the film and even after; however, there are interesting websites that provide various explanations and interpretations of the film. In my opinion: a masterpiece, possibly the most interesting film I have ever seen. Five stars.

 

A scene from the film:

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