Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The music industry shudders to its core...

Best news story of the day has to be this. Shown right is the new album cover for Hard-Fi's new album. Just to be upfront about this.. I hate Hard-Fi. Hate is a strong word, so maybe I rephrase that.. I really hate Hard-Fi.

Singer Richard Archer is quoted as saying

"We wanted to break the rules."

Wow. What next eh? Who needs Rage Against The Machine to reform..

Have a sense of humour there lads..

I mean if they didnt want a black and white poser-ish picture, they could have just had plain colour or something.. Its hardly 'Never Mind The Bollocks' is it...

Stick It To The Man Indeed!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

The Simpsons Movie.

As I walked into the foyer of the cinema last night the smell of popcorn hit me right in the face. Smells are like no other sense. They can resurface memories which you had buried under years of experiences as if they only happened yesterday. Popcorn reminds me of a childhood visits to the cinema. Visits which had a wide-eyed excitement when watching films like ET or Jurassic Park. Films which made fantasy reality.

This is good because the film I'm going to see is The Simpsons Movie, a film that most people thought they would never see. And it looks amazing. The animation and attention to detail throughout are superb, the millions of dollars available to the producers have allowed Springfield to be made new again with a thorough spit polish shine on its skyline.

The film itself is a great vehicle for the antics of The Simpsons.. there are a lot of things that just cannot be achieved in a 20 minute episode, however, it never once feels like an extended version of the show. It is a film in its own right, a feat for the writers for sure.

At this point I have reached an impasse with my feelings about the film as the last 3-4 series of The Simpsons have been poor. Homer has sold himself out to buffonary instead of actually engaging the viewers as a character. Bart has also lost his shine as the young rascal in the family - his character is written much older than his age here, something which was more implicit in early Simpsons series.

The environmental plot seems tacked on in order to be relevant to the current time, and the main EPA agent villain is poorly characterised. Personally, I would have thought that he would have been more interesting had the writers decided to use him in the guise of the super-rich ego maniac Hank Scorpio from the series, with whom he shares a voice.

As a piece of animation, the film doesn’t have the luxury of papering over its cracks with amazing action sequences and set pieces - if the producers where to crash a car into a helicopter I doubt I would be too impressed, as its only ink and paper. To their credit, the production team haven't over relied on guest stars - Tom Hanks and Green Day are the only big name which are dropped, however maybe this is something that may have actually given the film a leg up, as seen in the last Austin Powers movie.

In making it to the big screen, the shows producers have in one sense made fantasy a reality; however the problems with the series are too great to make this anything more than a spectacle. Five years earlier and maybe this would have been something kids today associated with the smell of popcorn, but more likely this will be as short lived as any of today’s animation faire.

Two Stars. **.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Foy Vance, Waterfront Studios, Saturday 21st July

All of the summer festivals seem to have 'New Music' stages cluttered with artists who are anything but new - journeymen who have paid their dues playing small venues in any town just to be heard.

Foy Vance is such an artist. He has been plugging away for years, honing his act and growing as a songwriter. His growth has seen him go from Van Morrison sound-a-like to an artist in his own right, gaining true recognition within the industry. His songs have even been used in the hit US TV series Greys Anatomy, a show which seems to have a love of Irish acts judging by the inclusions of Iain Archer and Snow Patrol on scenes in the show. He is an artist on the up, a fact that may be indicated by the amount of Foy impersonators and bald men making up the crowd tonight.

Tonight's support act is a spoken word act called Polar Bear Poet, a self confessed 'rhymer' who breathes new life into the cliché Brummie accent, using it to paint pictures in your head at two hundred words per second. On first impression his prescence here seems out of place, but he wins over the crowd with ease and has people hanging on his every word like any Irish storyteller. High recommendation indeed.

Foy rolls onto stage tonight beaming having recently enjoyed success next door supporting Duke Special in the BBC's Orchestral Maneuvres show, and with the release of his debut album 'Hope'. The show consists mainly of the tracks from this, played by Foy, wife Joanne, and regular Keys man Jules Maxwell.

Although only three, the sound is maximised fully by Foys clever use of his trusty loop pedal, a tool so frustrating in the hands of a novice is employed masterfully here to provide the illusion of a soul choir singing backup, an entire percussion section and a full backing band.

The new songs are fantastic - ranging from the slower 'Gabriel And The Vagabond', 'Doesn't Take A Whole Day' and 'Indiscriminate Act Of Kindness' to the blues-ey opener 'Be With Me' which acts as the perfect vehicle for Foy's room-filling cry. 'First of July' is a cracking ballad which reminds us all of a time when we've been left broken hearted by another.

Vance's delivery is a cross between Irish singer-songwriter and the passionate calls of a Southern Preacher, a fact that he himself lampoons on the final song of the encore. He passionately calls Halleluiah, and warbles into the night, walking the fine line between performance and Mariah Carey-style self indulgence impeccably well.
He looks at home on the stage, showing complete control over any heckles from the crowd, retorting with a dry wit and sense of humour missing from many of his current singer-songwriter contemporaries.

This is employed well on the cover versions on display tonight - Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is rolled out here complete with 'Cha-Mones!', crotch-grabbing and moonwalking, but Foy's strength is that he can combine this with a sensitive approach to the song, telling a story of the brokenness of deceitful lovers, which pulls at the heartstrings before he changes the mood midway through the song.

The recurring theme of Hope is evident on all of these songs, and indeed in the eyes of Vance himself, who really seems to believe in the concept of a new day, a clean slate, and a second chance no matter what has passed. This is an admirable quality in any journeyman, and one which could see him go far.

With this attitude backing up the undeniable talent on show tonight, Foy Vance's Hoping could turn into something very special indeed.

Four stars ****.