Monday, 27 July 2015

The Albion sales on course...

Going to try my hand at some musings on music today, specifically The Libertines.

For many years I've only really listened to guitar music. And I do hate it when people describe their taste as 'indie' because it isn't a genre like Jazz or Rock. Surely indie just means that the artist is signed to a non major label? I'd have been okay calling The Libertines indie when they were signed to the independent label Rough Trade, but since 2014 they've been with Virgin EMI - not remotely indie. I am digressing hugely but perhaps I should bring back the term 'alternative' instead. 

Rough Trade: one of my favourite record labels (and favourite haunt) on earth 

Anyway, I wasn't truly a fan of The Libertines until just this past week actually. But they had always been there as main player in the music scene I found myself invested in. For years I've listened exclusively to Xfm so I liked The Libertines, Babyshambles, Dirty Pretty Things as well as Carl and Pete's solo stuff. My elder brother had their posters, saw Dirty Pretty Things in Manchester and The Libertines when they reformed for Leeds/Reading a few years back. I even bought my brother Carl's Three Penny Memoir when it came out in 2010. In some respects I am over a decade late jumping on to the band wagon, but as I was 7 years old when they broke on to the scene I hope I can be forgiven! I wasn't even into McFly in year 2... But with their second coming I am finally along for the ride. 

I distinctly recall my brother claiming he was going to get 'Libertine' tattooed on himself. I'm still waiting for it...


The first single in 11 years was never going to be easy. Their return could have been a train wreck - and you probably would have still loved it - but Gunga Din is genuinely brilliant. If this had been their debut single and there was non of what came before, I would still be very excited. This is not a half arsed comback, the lads aren't hell bent on money spinning and reminiscing. Gunga Din is a belter of a single in its own right. It got echoes of The Clash, slightly ska-influenced and a chorus that'll hang around in your mind for days. Like the the old stuff - heavy, ambling and just a bit chaotic. It doesn't sound polished, and for a while that bothered me but now I dig the raucous spirit of it all. The new material is showing a continuance of the influence literature and poetry makes on the band's song writing: the song title Gunga Din is taken from the poem by Rudyard Kipling, and the album title Anthems for Doomed Youth comes from Wilfred Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth. Carl and Pete have always been a bit different to the average band member. How many lads at the NME Awards would think to recite Suicide In The Trenches as an acceptance speech?



As a band the Libertines are still so authentic with this undoubtedly British rock vibe - mythic and mental. Riotous, intriguing, charming. When I read Carl's memoir I found myself romanticizing the back story. When I thought about it, there's nothing romantic about sleeping rough on the streets of Paris, or living with some rogue characters in a basement, or being so wasted you can't remember whole days. And yet I have romanticized the whole thing out of all proportion and will continue to do so because that is what makes The Libertines so unique. They've always been iconic: from those red army jackets, to the on stage antics and mic sharing. It's remarkable how fast they blew up and equally how fast it all fell apart. But I feel as though it was a self fulfilling prophecy. NME way back in 2002 once asked Pete and Carl 'what band got it right?':

Pete: 'It doesn’t exist. Look at the Sex Pistols, they split up and there’s bitterness and sourness.’

Carl: 'that’s not the same as us.’

Pete: 'Of course it’s the same. That’s how it’s going to be with me and you. It’s going to turn sour.’

Carl: 'Why are you saying it’s going to turn sour?’

Pete: 'I think it’s going to turn sour and we’ll get back together.


I think there are somethings that are just meant to be. It was either top of the world or bottom of the canal. 

Thankfully, Bilo and Biggles are once more united on the good ship Albion. Arcadia matters just as much as ever.


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Not quite the Golden Ticket...


Dear the Reader(if there are any of you left out there.)

 I'm sorry for my erratic and frequent absences from this blog. But I have continued going to the movies, consuming boxsets and watching an occasional play - so I am sitting on some material that I will attempt to cajole into reviews, discussions, musings...

I'll start with a review I wrote a while back of the West End show Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that I never got round to publishing. This is the first theatre production I've written about on Amateur Reviews so here's to firsts.

A couple of weeks ago I journeyed to London on a Law related excursion involving a night at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane - many thanks, Slaughter & May.

As Sam Mendes is one of my more revered directors I was looking forward to seeing his rendition of the much adapted classic by Roald Dahl. And I enjoyed it, but only just.
First off, there is something mildly boring about watching something when you already know the plot like the back of your hand. Did I feel suspense every time Charlie opened a chocolate bar? Well obviously not, as we all know where the tale ends up. And yet conversely I was disappointed that, bar one song, there was none of the classic Charlie songs we know and love. I understand that some of the new tracks could go on to be equally as well known but it's like listening to a new album for the first time, you only really get into it after you've replayed it, and clearly I had not listened to the new Charlie tunes beforehand.

So qualm numero uno is I knew the plot which made it a little uninteresting and qualm numero dos is that I didn't know the songs which, once again, made it a little uninteresting.
With that said I'm not sure my familiarity with the story is all that is dulling my appreciation of the musical, as I could watch Les Miserables knowing the plot and songs every month and still dig it.

No, I think my real disappointment stems from the fact this play is undoubtedly shopped for the under tens, and whilst still enjoyable for a parent perhaps, I found myself hyper aware of the target demographic. This is a family play and if I went with a young child I'm sure I'd find it magic watching them enjoy and become invested in the story but I didn't go with a young child - I went with a bunch of second and third year Law students.

I'm not a theatre connoisseur, but I am more gripped by actual stories, like The Woman In Black and recently 12 Angry Men without razzmatazz and singing and dancing . It's not that I dislike musicals but somehow I can't see Charlie having the longevity of something like The Lion King.

But it is undeniably fun, genuinely humorous at times and the set is unbelievable. If you're into big budget productions, with a huge cast, great costume, inventive set design, magical lighting and something to gawp at in every scene - Charlie excels in this respect.

Would I describe my ticket to this musical as golden? Probably not.


But am I glad I went? You betcha.


Arty one from my Instagram