Welcome to CrossFade! This is the entertainment section of The Observer. We’re hoping to make this a semi-regular magazine type post on a Friday, to break up the monotony of always posting about college news, without cluttering up our little operation here. Sometimes people just want to read about music, film, sport, the works. So here we are. And if you feel like you want to get involved; if you want to review something, rant and rave about something, or want to write a letter to the editor (me), then feel free to, you know the address, email@example.com
So enjoy, and let us know what you think.
Music Review….This issue: MGMT, Codeine Velvet Club, and vintage Beastie Boys
TV………………….We tell you why you should be watching Californication and Deadwood
Sport……………… The fate of this Season’s Premier League
We will have films, games and more in future issues. This is, after all, a test run.
Am I the only one who isn’t impressed by these people? It could be that in my old age I’m just a jaded old man yelling at clouds, or it could be that their songs were on a near-maddening loop in the SU Bar last year. But to me, MGMT have always just been another band. Granted, they wrote some catchy pop songs, but I’ve always thought what they’ve done in completely disproportionate to the adulation they have garnered from every teenager in the world. Well, at least the ones who dress like walking highlighter pens.
Anyway, all irrational ranting aside, their debut ‘Oracular Spectacular’ was a fine effort. Since then, the band has proclaimed their intent to abandon all trappings of the commercial success of it with the follow-up. And fair play to them, they are men of their words. Ironically, abandoning commercial success is becoming a popular notion. Muse replaced glam rock with over the top space symphonies, Arctic Monkeys abandoned teenage discos in favour of desert rock, but MGMT have replaced pop music with music that just exists. As a collective work, ‘Congratulations’ attempts to poke and prod at some sort of intense psychedelic feel but just produces generic results. There are aspirations toward Brian Wilson (‘It’s Working’) and Pink Floyd (‘I Found a Whistle’) in here, but aspirations is all it really amounts to. I mean, why try to be Pink Floyd? We’ve already had them, get your own gimmick. MGMT do deserve a lot of credit for having the bravery to ditch the formula that put them on the map. It is true that repeating the same album ad infinitum is incredibly tedious for musician and listener, but on this occasion it appears that they made the leap, and it just didn’t work out for them. That’s fine, dust yourselves off, and try again.
Codeine Velvet Club- ‘Codeine Velvet Club’
I am astounded that this album came out in NOVEMBER, and I’ve only heard about it in the last few weeks. Codeine Velvet Club is the side-project of Jon Lawler (he of The Fratellis, one of the few bands of its kind to break the dirge of Indie nonsense in the 2000’s) and Lou Hickey. This album is such a breath of fresh air. No electro, no autotune, no riding disco-sticks, no sir. What this album brings to the table is a return to the pomp and pageantry of Vegas big band music and male-female duets.
From opening track ‘Hollywood’ it’s evident that this isn’t your average album. The classical feel, the percussion, everything about it just harkens back to a different time, where it’s all smoky clubs, pinstripe suits, and mint tulips being served out of a man’s hat. Yet the remeniscense of the album does not create a disconnect between the music and the 95% of people who weren’t even born when this music was at its peak.
In this reviewer’s the peak of this album is a double header toward the middle of the album. The first of these, ‘The Black Roses’ has the making of a great single, from Jon’s cool-as-you-like verse to the far livelier chorus. The second, ‘Little Sister’, is probably the closest shred of evidence on this album that this is the same man of ‘Chelsea Dagger’ fame singing, but not to the extent that you feel it should have been one of their songs.
All in all, it’s a really great little album. It doesn’t change the musical landscape, or make a grand statement, but it doesn’t set out to do so. A thoroughly enjoyable effort
Albums from the Vault
Classic Records you must own!
Beastie Boys, License to Ill
Beastie Boys, who knew they used to be a punk band?
Whether you love them or hate them, when it gets to a certain point of the night you will always find yourself shouting “You gotta fight (duh-duh) for your right (duh-duh) to paaaaaaaaarty!”
In their 1986 debut album License to Ill, three white Jewish boys from New York managed to create what is regarded as one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums of all time. Infusing their rock background with the emerging hip-hop scene of NYC, the Beasties brought to the table one of my all time favourite party albums. Along with Fight for your Right, the album includes such classics as No Sleep till Brooklyn (a parody of the glam metal dominating the airwaves and a play on Motorhead’s No Sleep till Hammersmith album), Brass Monkey, and Paul Revere. In fact, every song on this album is sheer party gold.
While by now the Beasties have moved on from their young, adolescent ways, and often refusing to play songs such as No sleep, due to fans misinterpretation of their scathing parody, the album remains timeless and to this day is one of the most acclaimed and played of their vast discography. It encompasses everything associated with teenage rebellion and angst but not so much in the annoying Emo way that has attracted fans and foes alike in recent times. From the first track Rhyming & Stealin’, they grab you by the metaphorical gonads and bring you through 45 minutes of can only be described as the best and possibly only punk rock rap album ever made. Many albums have come and gone, but License to Ill has surprisingly stood the test of time and 24 years on still remains the ultimate celebration of being alive.
Never mind Desperate Housewives and Cougar Town, these are the shows you should be watching!
While RTE have pride themselves on bringing its viewers the best TV from the U.S, they always manage to pick the shows that end up becoming mundane and downright awful. I remember the very first ad for Desperate Housewives all those years ago. It seemed to promise everything contained in an adolescent boys wet dream, but alas, there is nothing sexy about Bree and even Gabrielle has lost her sex appeal to most since we saw her giving birth to the two sprogs. Prison Break, while its first season was jaw-droppingly awesome, failed to keep its momentum, and really should have been called something else once they got out. Lost, I won’t even mention, but for me resembles one of those people who stay in your house long after you have dropped the hints to feck off so you can go to bed.
Now that I have my rant on why I don’t pay my T.V license out of the way, here is one show that everyone and I mean EVERYONE will enjoy. ShowTime’s Californication has it all. Comedy, drama, food for thought and most importantly sex. It’s the kind of stuff the girls on Wysteria Lane tempted you with but, metaphorically speaking, pushed your hand away when it got too close to the bra area. The show follows the trials and tribulations of author Hank Moody, played by an excellent David Ducovny (X-Files‘ Agent Mulder), as he attempts to adjust to the life of living away from his home city of New York in the sunny, sexy and decadent City of Angels, Los Angeles. Without giving away much of the plot, I will attempt to summarise the sheer greatness of this show. For the males, this will be easy. The opening scene of season one involves Hank, a church and an extremely hot nun offering some oral pennance in order to help recover his lost ability to write. By the end of the first five minutes and the rolling of the opening credits, Hank is driving down the Pacific Coast Highway smoking the ever present Marlboro Lights in his boxers while the Rolling Stones are blaring. For every guy, he is the ultimate drinking buddy and wing man as the show will indeed tell you in episode ten when he unwillingly gets into a threesome for the sake of his best friend Charlie (Evan Handler and Harry from Sex & the City).
Now for the ladies. While Hank at first seems to offend every sensibility of every woman’s feminist tendencies, by the end you will all love him. In fact you will probably have a secret crush on his sheer sexiness as a Neanderthal male. He loves women, but at the same time is getting to grips with the breakup with his partner and mother of his child, who he still loves despite whatever transgressions may have passed. He is also a good father to his twelve year old, coming of age daughter Becca. He may live the rock and roll lifestyle but he is a good father. That may not have won the girls over, but watch it and by the end of Season One, you will be hooked. Currently in production for a fourth season, Californication is one show where you will definitely get “Lost” in, for all the right reasons.
In recent years, the Western genre has become somewhat uncool and I have been often ridiculed by friends down the pub when it the fact of information is released that when I was younger I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up. But to put Brokeback Mountain aside and the homophobic slagging it has been given, the genre has been turning out some quality, edgy and downright disturbing programming thanks to HBO. Before I continue, I must say that HBO productions will be getting some heady reviews in CrossFade, due to its sheer superiority in the production of television programs. For my inaugural HBO recommendation, ladies and gentleman, is none other than the extremely murky drama Deadwood.
The show is set in the frontier town Deadwood, located in the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota. It is a place where men from all walks of life go to make their fortune and live the tough life of prospectors, saloon owners and tradesmen. The characters are by no means the ‘con-sarnit this’ and ‘cotton-picking that’ of Yosemite Sam. This is gritty stuff and those that find themselves unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a knife or six-shooter, more often than not, end up as food for the local Triad boss’s pigs then in a graveyard. It is a town obviously devoid of law and order. That is until former Montana sheriff, Seth Bullock (Tim Olyphant from Hitman and The Crazies) rolls into town with his partner Sol Star to make their fortune selling hardware. It isn’t long until they run into trouble with local saloon and brothel owner Al Swearengen (played by the fantastic Ian McShane), who is often the supplier to Mr. Wu.
One of the shows greatest points is that it is based on real characters. Bullock, Star and Swearengen are all historic figures and the show is complemented with other more well know figures of American folklore such as Wild Bill Hickock, Wyatt Earp and Calamity Jane. While some of you will instantly think Calamity Jane? Wasn’t she a musical? Yes she was and yes she was in Deadwood. But think of this as the older, XXX version where the song ‘Take me back to the Windy City’ is far more sinister and profane. For those of you, like me, who failed to catch it on Sky One, you will have to settle for DVD or (illegal) download to see the three series of the show. As with the majority of HBO series, they never let a good thing die a slow death so the show and the exploits of its characters shall not continue although some rumours of a two part movie have been circulated. If any news breaks on this, I will be the first to know. And you will be the second.
Going Down To the Wire- Where will the Premier League end up this season?
United, then Chelsea. United again, followed by Chelsea. It’s enough to give anyone motion sickness. But in perhaps the most unpredictable and exciting Premiership season ever, that’s the way it’s been. Big teams have been dropping points to minnows, dead certs are falling by the wayside, and yet now, with two weeks remaining, it’s still anyone’s guess who’ll take the two most crucial positions, first and fourth. Liverpool’s title challenge never even began, despite having taken crucial points from champions Manchester United on the way. Arsenal have tried, but get nosebleeds every time they get close, and fall apart. So it comes down to Chelsea and United. But who will come up trumps? Let’s look at the teams.
Chelsea occupy top spot by a single point at press time, having just battered a hapless Stoke at Stamford Bridge. Their panel has its strengths and weaknesses like anyone. This season’s great hope for Chelsea has been the near unstoppable Didier Drogba. Still as prone to hit the deck when a light breeze comes his way, but don’t let that fool you. Drogba is a striking powerhouse with a surprising skill set for a man his size. Check out his control of the ball on Sunday to set up Kalou’s first. His goalscoring and general play has progressed and improved, in spite of his occasional petulance. Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda, Branislav Ivanovic, and Alex also deserve merit. The former pair have been free scoring from midfield (despite Lampard’s shaky start to the season), and have added heart and soul to the effective but dull midfield The Special One had crafted. The latter pair have been rocks in defence and have really impressed many of their detractors this season.
But there are cracks in the team. Cracks that, if not acknowledged soon, could spell trouble down the line. Petr Cech was once a keeper compared favourably to the likes of Peter Schmeichel. However, since Stephen Hunt’s boot infamously cracked his skull, things haven’t been the same. He’s till solid, but the mistakes do come for him. He is now understandably hesitant on occasion to fling himself at the ball. I don’t believe he should be sold, I just think they need back up for him, because Hilario and Turnbull do not meet the standards of a team that are hell bent on some day lifting the Champions’ League.
Moving to the defence, this will come as ridiculous to some people, but John Terry is not very good anymore. Still club captain and figurehead of the team, Terry’s place is secured regardless of form. But look at the evidence. When Chelsea have been behind in games this season, look how Terry reacts in his two roles. First, as the centre half, rather than tightening the screws on defending and keeping to the strikers, Terry just begins lunging wildly at players, risking penalties, bookings, and the occasional sending off (See Man City game). In his role as captain, rather than control his team and lift their spirits, he occasionally lets his teammates lapse into woeful misconduct. See the red cards issued in the last three or so occasions they’ve been knocked out of Europe. Terry’s motive in life has become making a statement to Fabio Capello about his sacking as England captain, not about being the leader that brings Chelsea to the Promised Land. Also, he’s made Bring Your Wife to Work day a worrisome affair.
Chelsea’s other weakness is their midfield. In a case of AC Milan syndrome, a lack of youth in the midfield has held Chelsea back from the creativity and speed they could achieve. The rumours are gathering that this will be remedied in the summer, which is good news, as the likes of Ballack and Deco aren’t getting any younger.
Title rivals Manchester United have similar strengths and weaknesses. It is amazing, all things considered, that United are so close to a record four in a row. Consider that at various points this season, they’ve had to deal with a medium to long-term injury list of Van Der Sar,Brown, Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Hargreaves, Anderson, O’ Shea, Rooney, Owen, Macheda and Giggs. Add to that the loss of two of the clubs Big Three attacking players (Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez), it is astounding that the gap is only a single point.
Of course, Wayne Rooney has been grabbing all the headlines and awards this year, but there are other stars that have been performing for the Red Devils. Antonio Valencia has had a great first season (despite his refusal to ever use his left foot), getting himself on the PFA team of the season. Darren Fletcher his been immense in midfield, and despite all their defensive woes, Patrice Evra has remained constant and brilliant for the champions. Luis Nani has also matured in the back half of the season into a fantastic winger.
Their downsides are quite extensive. Reliance on aging players like Giggs, Scholes, and Neville will not suffice for much longer. Add to that the list of deadwood that still get regular starting places when fit (Anderson, Carrick, Berbatov at al.), and worst of all, the fact that they lost two of their best attacking players and failed to replace them means that the United engine is running on steam.
On the balance, it’s Chelsea’s league to lose. Their match on Sunday away to Liverpool will likely decide the fate of the Premier League. Liverpool could conceivably beat Chelsea, stranger things have happened this season, but it’s really hard to bet against Chelsea right now.