Honor And Glory

Honor-and-Glory

Well there you have it. I’ve finally done it; I’ve watched the greatest movie ever made. Honor And Glory holds that title and it is a film of many contradictions – an 80s action movie made in the 90s; a Cynthia Rothrock vehicle which she is barely in; a martial arts film in which it looks like the fights were choreographed by a Tory MP; a film which made me laugh more than any comedy of the last ten years; a film made with such ineptitude that those who made The Room watched it and shook their heads in shame. Stop whatever you’re doing now and find it. Go, watch it now. I’ll wait.

See? What did I tell you? WTF was that? Where do we even begin? I watched Cynthia Rothrock movies when I was a kid, though I really only remember the China O’Brien series. She was hot, cool, and could kick ass – pretty much the only things I was interested back then. She made a bunch of films with similar titles to what JCVD was making in those days, if not outright sequels – Rapid Fire, Tiger Claws, No Retreat No Surrender 2. It must have been difficult trying to make her way in those days, to make a legitimate case as a leading lady, an action heroine. If there hasn’t been a documentary made about her, then someone needs to get on that. Honor And Glory opens with a very unusual scene – one which seems less strange as the movie moves from weird to bizarre to buck nuts with each passing minute. Starting out in Hong Kong, where Rothrock is on some sort of FBI mission (is that even allowed), she is attacked by some guy while getting a drink. Hey, isn’t that Liu Kang? Yes, yes it is, but it’s okay he’s a good guy in this film too, he was just keeping Rothrock on her toes. Turns out he’s a detective called Dragon Lee, because Bruce Nunchucks was already taken. After watching this I just had to start taking notes about all the wonderful, ludicrous crap which was happening. Those notes make up much of what follows below, but it got to the point where I was pausing the movie every thirty seconds to write something down so I eventually gave up. If it hasn’t been done already, someone needs to do a scene by scene essay on this monstrosity.

What was the budget of this thing – twenty bucks? It looks like it has been shot with the sort of home camcorder my parents got so they could record me refusing to take part in any of the party games at my 8th Birthday. The film moves to America for one of the most hilariously bad acted scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing – and it was a pleasure. There’s a group of, I think, military top brass meeting to discuss a major security incident which could have world-destroying consequences, yet they appear to be conducting this game-changer in a reconstituted broom closet. Believe me, I wouldn’t trust any of these guys with closing my fridge properly, never mind the safety of the free world. Each actor seems to have the same voice, the same delivery. I wouldn’t be surprised if they realised they needed some plot establishing scene and literally grabbed the first 6 guys they found walking by, stuck them in a room, and got them to read the lines.

We then get an even funnier scene where some random disgruntled onlooker attacks a News Reporter by throwing a can of Dr Pepper at her. Why couldn’t she be like everyone else and just yell ‘fuck her right in the pussy’ like everyone else? The ill-flavoured soda tin flies through the air, going nowhere near Joyce The Reporter, yet Joyce somehow kicks the can without looking behind her and it flies back and hits the perp in the face. I rewound five times and laughed every time. Then they have a full blown ninja-off in the parking lot, complete with hilarious sound effects – each blow accompanied by a tornado woosh of air and landing with a boom John Bonham would have been proud off. Why the hell aren’t her friends helping her out? Once the fight is over they nonchalantly appear and say something like ‘lets go Joyce’ as if these brawls are a daily occurrence. Oh, Joyce and Rothrock are sisters – we know this because they also have a fight in a parking lot, juggling a set of car keys enthusiastically between each others’ ankles.

Next we meet the big bad, whose first appearance I annotated with ‘who’s this coked-up loon-bag’? It’s another boardroom scene, but somehow worse (better) than the previous one. Here is the next section of notes I jotted down – they speak for themselves: WTF is wit the jaunty kids sitcom soundtrack. The ‘World’s Greatest Bodyguard’ looks like a rejected MC Hammer dancer – why is he cupping his cock, scared it’s gone AWOL again? The bad guy praises him, then admonishes him in the quickest cock tease to cock block switch I’ve ever seen. We’re 13 minutes in and I’ve already laughed more than I did during the entire Hangover Trilogy. So Rothrock is looking into illegal arms dealing, Joyce is a reporter investigating the corrupt loonbag Jason Slade, and their dad in somehow involved too? Fuck knows.

As terrific as all this is, we haven’t yet met Mickey – taking over from Burgess Meredith as ‘best character ever called Mickey’. Why isn’t Mickey in every movie ever? I no longer care about whatever story this film is failing to tell, I just want The Adventures Of Mickey, as he stumbles from one well-meaning mishap to the next, getting the shit beaten out of him by whoever he meets. He even drives a KITT! Why there wasn’t a spin-off series about him is the greatest crime of the 20th Century. This was his only film-role? For shame. After his introduction, surely the film will go downhill. No, we get some scenes of the top brass being killed along with bizarre dialogue like ‘consider this your resignation’. Did that guy even work for you? Why even say that, just pull the trigger. Why refer to these guys as The Three Stooges – there’s only two of them! We are treated to the most caring, relaxed neck-break in cinema history – the dude’s just sort of nuzzled and has his throat caressed for a few seconds, then he’s dead. He blinks after he dies too.

We get some more vital time with Mickey as he sits eating lunch, talking to himself, but getting the words wrong. He grabs a camcorder, hops into KITT and goes to do his own bit of sleuthing for reasons unannounced. I hope he doesn’t get caught because he sure as shit won’t be able to talk his way out of it. Then again, he’s an amateur and seems to be filming a gate closing. More scenes and notes: There’s a sped up kata scene, the most awkward doorstep scene I’ve ever been party to (and I’ve kissed girls on their doorsteps in front of their dads). Cynthia beats up Mickey (!) only to be reminded that she actually knows him (!) and says ‘oh, sorry Mickey, lets go inside for a party’, to which he replies ‘that’s ok’ in super chipper mode. Have any of these writers or actors ever actually met a human? Look at Slade, standing there fondling his balls and drinking a Heineken. Ooh, an original Q-Bert arcade machine, that’s probably worth a few bob. We get to the final showdown, and it’s Slade and some Japanese guy whose entirely personality is encapsulated by the fact that he holds a coin, but they’re fucked because they’re up against Cynthia Rothrock, Liu Kang, fake Eddie Murphy, and a woman in a blue trenchcoat. There’s fisticuffs. It ends. The film features neither Honor nor Glory.

Just in case you were thinking all of this magic was the product of an untrained director being let loose on the streets with a bunch of cameras and equipment he’d never seen before, a quick look at Imdb provides some startling results. I didn’t recognise the director’s name – Godfrey Hall is a name more reminiscent of a Key Grip from the 60s who’d worked his way up on British crime capers. But it’s a fake – it’s really Godfrey Ho, a name I did recognise as someone who made a tonne of action movies in the 80s, especially dubious knock-offs. Just to give you an idea of his pedigree – in 1986 he made the classic Ninja Terminator and followed that up with 16 more movies. In 1986 alone. Yes, 17 films in one year, 14 of which have the word Ninja in the title. In other words, 1986 was a slow year for Ho so in 1987 he completed 24 features, and not to be outdone,  in 88 he was particularly inspired and made 39 films. Fellow movie bloggers out there – why not run a Godfrey Ho blogathon? I fucking dare you.

Well, that about does it. I’m fairly positive that is the most that anyone has ever written about Honor And Glory – this review is probably longer than the script. Though I imagine this is the sort of film which will have a dedicated fanbase who write and vlog about it all the time.

 

Best Writing (Original) – 1976

Official Nominations: Network. Cousin Cousine. The Front. Rocky. Seven Beauties.

Two big hitters, two foreign oddities, and a Woody Allen movie that he didn’t write or direct make up the list this year. Paddy Chayefsky won his third Writing Oscar this year (an unbeaten record) for Network, a film known for its impassioned speeches and angry one-liners. More than that, the script is replete with social satire which has only become more prescient over time. Rocky is famously the script that everyone wanted to buy, but Stallone wasn’t selling unless he could star. The gamble paid off and Stallone created one of the most famous, enduring heroes of Hollywood. The story borrows heavily from notions of The American Dream and from early rags to riches stories, but updates it to modern day and does so with such charm that it’s impossible to not love.

It’s not often that foreign movies get nominated in this category, but we got two this year – a sign that the daring indie movement of Hollywood was being mirrored elsewhere. Cousin Cousine has a knack for understanding and representing forbidden and budding romance while Seven Beauties is a dark, long spanned tale of one despicable character living through an even more despicable landscape which both shapes and nurtures him. Finally, The Front is a movie about the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s made by people who were blacklisted – while good, while funny, and while an interesting subject, it feels like an apologetic nomination.

My Winner: Network

network

My Nominations: Network. Rocky. Seven Beauties. Murder By Death. The Omen. Silent Movie. Taxi Driver.

Three Official choices make my list, joining a couple of spoofs, a horror classic, and a hefty snub. If we start with the snub, it seems unusual in retrospect that Taxi Driver was not nominated, given the reverence it has received over the years. I think that it deserves a nod over one of the foreign movies, definitely over The Front. It’s an incisive look into a character’s moral viewpoint of a dirty world and quotable dialogue is scattered from page to screen. Murder By Death is that rare Neil Simon comedy that I fully enjoy, riffing on those mansion mysteries of old while I find that Silent Movie is one of the more clever comedy screenplays of the era despite the fact that only a single word is spoken. Finally, The Omen’s impact on film and on popular culture should not be underestimated, providing successive generations who vaguely preach ignorance from behind the pulpit with misinformation they purport as truth, and fans with a succession of lines to quote at each other.

My Winner: The Omen

Let us know your winner in the comments!

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part Three!

beatlesofrock31

Well, this has been a slog. Be thankful we’re almost at the end! Below, thou shalt find my favourite Beatles songs in the whole wide world. I’m tired. So tired. I haven’t slept a wink. Click here for Part One and there for Part Two.

26. Strawberry Fields Forever 

We’re into my favourite Beatles songs now, starting with this slice of trippy oddness from Magical Mystery Tour. It’s another one which could be dreary and depressing but overcomes by power of melody, interesting lyrics, and the amount of instruments and invention at play.

25. Penny Lane

One of the most summery songs the band crafted, it’s essentially a story of a time and place. The names and people may be unfamiliar but it’s universal enough, it’s cheery enough to make you feel like they’re talking about your street, your town, your friends.

24. Every Little Thing

When I first started listening to the band album to album there were a number of songs I had no idea existed but fell in love with first time around. For Sale doesn’t get enough credit for its experimentation but it’s really here where they began to throw in little changes and ideas – the timpani in the chorus, the single note piano, the unusual melodies and the layered guitars all setting up for the future but on its own a terrific pop rock song.

23. Hey Jude

This is high on my list, and yet I’m not as enamoured with it as most other people are. It’s a great song no doubt, but it’s not their best and other bands have created similar songs that I’ve loved more. Still, great song.

22. Eleanor Rigby

I know a lot of people consider this the best Beatles song, and I’d be happy to agree with that. Still, it’s not my favourite, but it’s undoubtedly brilliant. Like Penny Lane it feels like a story and while it doesn’t strike the same universal chord the melodies and strings and feeling make it one which will last well into the next century.

21. I’m A Loser

From that grunting opening vocal, the darker tone, the song title and lyrical content, this was maybe my first exposure to The Beatles not being this happy go lucky, summery pop band. Lennon was actually singing about something real yet making it eminently catchy so that anyone could still enjoy the music without contemplating the meaning.

20. Paperback Writer

One I was always fond of from my youth, this is a song which blends the band’s earlier harsher rock sound with their later, more mature pop abilities. What a great riff – the weird thing is that you can easily forget the riff because the harmonies and melodies are so strong. All the harmonic stuff going on in the verses is spellbinding, there are lots of tiny notes and different things going on that I notice something new each time I listen, and the lyrics are a quirky delight too.

19. Real Love

So, it’s more of a Lennon solo effort, but given that the surviving lads got together to fix it up and release it, it still counts. Plus it’s glorious. Fantastic lyrics once again showcasing the growth, and one of the great shifts from minor to major in rock history. The vocal effects are squarely in that psychedelic period, George’s guitar lines are simmering, and wouldn’t you just know it – melodies from start to finish are the stuff of dreams.

18. In My Life

The Beatles at their most tender. When the band tried, really tried, to do a certain type of song, they invariably knocked it out of the park. This is one such example, a ballad of both love and sorrow. It’s so damn simple, yet so damn beautiful. The little drums pieces Ringo adds – <makes kissing fingers gesture> – and that little solo in the middle, all just lovely. But man, so many Youtube comments about this song being played at funerals – not a dry eye across the land.

17. Mr Moonlight 

Ah ha, yes. The most maligned Beatles song. I had never heard this song until I first listened to For Sale all the way through. How had I never heard such a fantastic song? Why wasn’t this one of their biggest hits? Well, it turned out that its almost universally hated. I was completely mystified by this when I found out, and I still don’t get it. Like, at all. I can’t think of any reason why people really don’t like this. I understand if it’s not a favourite, but all the hate is totally beyond me. The vocals are maybe the best I’ve heard from Lennon. And I love the little church organ solo – sure it could have been replaced with a different type of organ, but it adds a quirky charm. This is easily one of my favorites, and easily their best cover.

16. And Your Bird Can Sing

This is another one of those instances where I’d maybe heard the song before but had no idea it was by The Beatles until I starting working through the albums. As lovely as it sounds, lyrically it is quite vicious. I love the constant thumping beat throughout and of course the duel guitar attack – another glorious collection of riffs – and what about the melodies, both following and complementing the central riff? It has a mantra quality, something hypnotic, but it’s all too short at only two minutes.

15. A Day In The Life

What is usually heralded as the band’s best song is an undoubted masterpiece. It’s almost flawless – it is, but there are a few things I would still change about it, in my genius. I have nothing of substance to add to what has already been said about it, beyond the little things I love – the growing horror movie soundtrack strings, the variances in the drumming, the sudden shifts etc etc.

14. No Reply

When I started listening to The Beatles albums, For Sale was the biggest blank for me – I didn’t really recognise any of the songs and so I assumed it had been a misstep with no hits. When it opened with this, I was suitably blown away. If this is a misstep, then what the hell else has every other band been doing with their time? It’s dark and angry stuff, portrayed by jealous lyrics and a biting delivery and punched beats.

13. A Hard Day’s Night

If you’d asked me to name any Beatles song from the age of about 5 up to, well today, chances are this would be one of the first songs I’d mention. The band were already megastars before this, but this song represented a shift to God status – it not only exemplified their growth but also their staying power. They were here to stay, and change the world while everyone else had their lunch.

12. Ticket To Ride

Another one of the first songs I loved by the band, and another which has never been far from my affections. It’s just a very strange pop rock song, the sort of thing nobody else has ever really been able to pull off so successfully. There are so many elements which shouldn’t work, but they do, likely because of the melody and charm. Also, the video is hilarious as the band sit about and take the piss.

11. Please Please Me

I can’t really remember when or how I first heard this, it could be another that I didn’t realise was The Beatles, or it could be one I only discovered when I picked up their first album. Either way, even though it was one of their first songs, it still stands out as one of their best. That energy, the choices, the melodies, the playing, the exuberance of youth, and just the sheer balls and joy of it all.

10. We Can Work It Out

The Beatles just had so many songs – so many that never even made it to any album and yet are better than what most people produce their whole lives. The thing I love most about this song – beyond another amazing minor/major dynamic, beyond the melody? That transition from chorus to verse – it’s not even a transition, it just… happens. And both pieces are completely different. How is it even possible?

9. She Loves You

You’re probably noticing that a lot of these favourites are early songs – in truth that’s probably the period I love most – more than their experimenting, more than their second half. There’s a joy in their first songs, an unspoken perfection which only an artist and fan can recognise – that moment when it all comes together. This is a song we’ll still be listening to when our ears have evolved into Ipod holders or something.

8. I Want To Hold Your Hand

I know I’m critical of bands whose lyrics are overly simple, and that’s a simple criticism to make of The Beatles in their early days. Even though they were taking the piss as they wrote whatever banal stuff popped into their heads, there was still something somehow earnest. And they were among the first to express such sentiments in such colloquial fashion and to string words together in a certain way. If anybody else from then or now was to sing about wanting to hold a hand, I would dismiss it. With these guys, it’s liquid gold.

7. From Me To You

It’s just more early pop rock perfection. Music rarely gets better than this.

6. I’ve Just Seen A Face

One of my favourite discoveries as I made my way through the albums, this is one of music’s most special songs. That discovery of love, of seeing that face for the first time, is something we can all understand, but it has never been put to paper or sound so wonderfully as this. One of the greatest love songs of all time, just wholesome unashamed goodness.

5. The Long And Winding Road

As the band began to reach their conclusion, they were still able to put out stuff like this. Some day, Paul and Ringo will be gone, everyone who was involved in making this will walk the Earth no more, but the song will echo onward. This is one of the most contemplative and heartbreaking and beautiful songs the band would record, and it’s one I rate much higher than the more popular Let It Be or ever Lennon’s Imagine. 

4. Here Comes The Sun

I love it when my favourite bands sound happy and make music which reflects that. I’m into the dark side of things and usually listen to a lot of angry, heavy stuff, but when an artist more renowned for that sort of music makes something sweet and whose purpose is to only make you smile, I love it. The Beatles don’t fall into that category and have many songs designed to bring you joy, but this is on another level. It’s Harrison’s best song by some distance, and it’s maybe the number one song of all time for raising that hope, that excitement, that positive feeling, that everything is going to be okay, that things are about to be glorious.

3. Can’t Buy Me Love

Taking pop and rock and music to the next level is something The Beatles did repeatedly. Can’t Buy Me Love was one of several songs on that album alone which performed that trick and you’ll struggle to find a more perfect song anywhere else.

2. Across The Universe

Maybe the best personal discovery during my run through of Beatles albums, I’d had no clue this song even existed when it first came on. Much of everything from The White Album onward had registered little more than a ‘okay, that was nice/weird/pointless’ and it felt like the band were shadows of their former selves. Then this came along and became an instant personal favourite. Why hadn’t they been writing stuff like this the whole time? Was this the last drip of their collective creative juice collecting inside a paper cup? I don’t care about the whys and hows now – it simply is, and it’s one of the best by anyone.

  1. Help

My number one. I honestly can’t think of a single better pop/rock song. Every millisecond is perfect. It sounds so simple, but this must have been a nightmare to write and record. The call and repeat stuff is inverted, multiple times throughout the song, and it boggles my mind how they make it sound so easy and so good. This is not an easy song. The high notes, the arpeggios, and above all the melody/harmony attack make Help my favourite Beatles song and I’d say a contender for the greatest song ever written.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. It’s only taken me two years to write and publish, but we’re finally done and we never have to speak of it again. Unless of course you want to add your favourites in the comments – something I encourage. Till next time!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Crash! Boom! Bang!

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with another selection of choice pop rock cuts from one of Sweden’s finest exports, Roxette. Fans of the band who happen to be following this series may have noticed that I’ve skipped Tourism. Why? Well, it’s basically a live album, although it does have a few new songs never before heard on any of their studio albums. Maybe I’ll cover those at some point, maybe not. What I am doing is listening to their fifth album, one which I know I’ve heard many times but which I can only honestly recall four songs from, at least by looking at the track listing. The album came out in 1995, so by that point I was mostly past caring about them but wouldn’t moan too much if my brother was in control of the car stereo. It’s another long album – fifteen songs topping an hour – so this could take a while. Enjoy!

Harley’s And Indians: I won’t go as far as saying it’s experimental, but it does have a different sound than what we’re used to from the band. If anything it sounds like some of Bon Jovi’s more cowboy inspired hits. The central guitar riff is fairly fat, on the heavy sit of country rock, yet the melodies are pure Roxette. Per takes lead on the vocals with Marie only chiming in slightly in places. There are some dubious insensitive lyrics in there but I’m not sure if they are there for satirical or comedy value. The chorus repeats a few times more than is necessary, we have a suitable harmonica ending, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Crash! Boom! Bang!: I knew I’d heard this one before, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it sounded like until I hit play today. Here’s a weird one – whenever I get a big sudden swoosh of nostalgia when listening to Roxette, it always, always takes me back to me getting dressed in the changing rooms of my local swimming pool. WTF’s that about? Anyway, this came flooding back, and I remember singing this one quite a bit – you know me and my ballads. It’s not quite a top tier ballad by their own standards, but it’s still good. It has a dark tone throughout, lyrically and musically, I appreciate the string interlude in the middle, Marie blasts the vocals with a yearning quality, and there’s a slight hint of mystery and reticence.

Fireworks: This was a single but I don’t have any memory of it, despite the funky intro. Actually, the chorus sounds vaguely familiar but that could be just because it’s similar to something else. Per takes the lead again in the verses, not quite rapping his way along, while the chorus sees Marie taking over and the song adopting a style closer to pop. There’s a dreamy, slow, section in the middle where the band sing ‘they’re coming to get you now’…. who? Fireworks?

Run To You: This is one I remembered just from the name, even if my memory of exactly how it sounded has been clouded by time. It’s a soft rock pop song with some mid-nineties production stuff going on. The melodies are strong enough to cut through anything which could date it, we have plenty of strings again though here they seem unnecessary. Minor key verses, happy choruses… it’s a simple, sweet song.

Sleeping In My Car: Here’s another weird one for you – I can remember the first time I heard this one. it was in the car again, it was played on the radio, and we were driving around the roundabout near our local shopping centre (mall). This is obviously the big single from the album. I think we knew the song was coming up and we were anticipating (me less so) how the band would sound, if they still had the goods, or if they had lost it. I think all of us were fairly impressed. It had abandoned the 80s sound of their previous hits and was now completely 90s, but it was still clearly Roxette. The guitars and melodies were front and centre, and it had a chorus which instantly hooked you. It’s still good now, far from amazing, but good.

Vulnerable: This is the last song from my initial look down the tracklist that I remembered. I do remember thinking this one was more suited to a boyband, which was usually a way teenage me used to say a song was crap. I know I still kind of liked it anyway. It is very nineties hearing it now, but as always I like the strings. Would Marie have been a better choice for the main vocal here? It’s fine, it’s too simpering and whimpering for my liking, even as a ballad, but it’s not terrible.

The First Girl On The Moon: I just had a giggle to myself because the intro to this almost, almost sounds like The Everlasting by the Manic Street Preachers. This one was a surprise because I have no memory of it but actually enjoyed it. It’s a slow one, starts off acoustic, a quaint story, Marie leading the vocals. Some piano comes in for the pre-chorus, actually there isn’t really a chorus so to speak. Just to further the weird Manics comparison, there’s an ‘ooh aah’ vocal piece in the middle. It’s barely three minutes long so feels like one you could play plenty of times and not get bored. Great production on this one.

Place Your Love: This starts off acoustic too, but with Per on main vocals. For the chorus we get the harmonies that made the band famous, though it’s not the best chorus. Was this influenced by Oasis? It feels like it was, however unlikely that sounds. The whole building of tambourine and organ feels like Oasis. It’s simple too. The chorus improves as the song progresses, with wider harmonies and increased backing instrumentation.

I Love The Sound Of Crashing Guitars: You know a band has jumped the shark when they begin writing songs about their own instruments or dinosaurs or something. We can forgive Roxette for such matters… they’ve always been kind of quirky like that. The lyrics are mostly nonsense, the music isn’t anything special, but the melodies and production keep things from being too embarrassing.

What’s She Like: It’s another I don’t remember, even though it seems like one I should – it’s typically the emotive power ballads that stick in my mind – for whatever reason those seemed to capture my imagination as a kid. This is in the style of Things Will Never Be The Same or It Must Have Been Love, but doesn’t quite reach the peaks of fist pumping or teeth gnashing or cheese as those. Melodically and tonally it’s very similar, it starts out quietly and builds gradually. The only thing which feels out of place is the middle eight which takes the song out of minor key territory almost seeming like a different song entirely.

Do You Wanna Go The Whole Way: Always. As a great man once said, there’s no sense in going off half-cocked. Unfortunately this one isn’t overly inspired, though it does start out in a promising manner with lots of strings. The lead riff is kind of catchy and interesting, the lyrics are unintentionally funny – to me at least, but melodically it’s a little too plain to stand out. There’s a slower, trippy section in the middle which tries to changes things up, but I think it hurts the song and isn’t needed.

Lies: This is a weird one, starting off with a fat, fast riff, losing pace with a dull verse, then merging into a garage tinged pre-chorus, before a cheesy pop chorus. It feels like a bunch of ideas for different songs slapped together to make a whole when they didn’t know what else to do, but it’s not terrible.

I’m Sorry: This one feels like a holdover from the 80s, with leading synths and melodies not dissimilar to other hits. I generally don’t like percussion led songs, unless the percussion is something extraordinary – this one doesn’t have much in the way of instrumentation in the verses, and the choruses are even a bit light. The melodies aren’t strong enough to save it, but again it’s brevity means I can’t complain too much.

Love Is All: A long one. Matron. Roxette aren’t known for their long songs, so I’m not sure what this will be like. It begins in classic epic style, with a slow, quiet, drawn out instrumental intro. Marie’s vocals come in, very angelic, repeating a soft hymnal. My immediate sense, even if it isn’t a true comparison, is of a psychedelic Beatles song. The lead vocal melody is simple but sweet, so it doesn’t get annoying even though it’s repeated. Repetition is the name of the game here, with the same few melodies growing and building and being modified slightly – Per takes over vocals at one point for example, while the backing instruments change frequently. It’s a mantra without enough significant variation to stop it becoming monotonous. There’s a change close to the three minute mark as we get some organ and guitar before the mantra continues. It seems like the song is going to fade out after four minutes, but then it soars back in again in Hey Jude style for a celebratory two minute coda – it seems like this was custom built for a set closer.

Go To Sleep: A ballad to finish. It avoids being cheesy and it doesn’t have the big chorus that you would expect. I wouldn’t go so far as saying the last two songs are experimental, but you ca tell that the band were playing with new sounds and techniques. This is another sweet and plaintive song which reminds me of quite a few mid nineties ballads – the ones which avoided going fully for the heartstrings but were content to meander in dreamlike sorrow or joy.

I think a couple of songs could have been trimmed from this – there are quite a few in the middle and second half which, while not bad, end up being to the detriment of the album as a whole. It’s a long listen in a single sitting so it would’t be long before you are drawn to pulling out your favourites and focusing on those instead. The album ends strongly, with two good songs – keep those, the singles, and a few others and you’d have a good album. It’s fine as it is but doesn’t have enough great songs to truly recommend it as a package. Regardless, if you’re a Roxette fan there is a surplus of material here to get your teeth into.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of this one!

Nightman Listens To – Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Lets keep this run of first time listens going. I say first time listens, but I have a feeling I’ve heard this before, or most of it. Or at the very least it has been on in the background or people have tried to make me enjoy it and failed. It could be this album or it could be another by Talking Heads. In many ways I should like Talking Heads, as they have inspired bands I do like and people say they have a similar sense of humour and lyrical style as I have/had. The songs I’ve heard have never been more then meh for me, and most less than that. I don’t like the vocals and I don’t like the sub Shakin’ Stevens stage presence.

What Do I Know About Talking Heads: Led by David Byrne, I always thought they were English when I was younger, only later finding out they were American. They merged punk and pop and New Wave 80s stuff and always felt like an offshoot of New Order to me. I’ve never heard anything by them which sounded like punk, whatever people made me listen to was always dancey or quirky or poppy. I know most critics and serious music fans like them, so I’m in the minority. Or I just haven’t been converted yet – we’ll see.

What Do I Know About Speaking In Tongues: Nothing concrete. I know it reviewed well and I have heard the name. I may have heard some songs from it or the whole album in passing, but if I don’t remember it it didn’t make an impact. Looking at the track-list – no bells a-ringing, my first thought is ‘how dare you have only 9 songs – only metal bands can have 9 songs on an album’.

Burning Down The House: Hello? Right, there’s the music. I had an inkling this was going to be this. I’ve gone on record before saying that the Tom Jones version of this is one of my least favourite songs of all time. Musically I like this a little more, but vocally it’s horrendous. The music is all blippy blappy moonman stuff and that prevents the main melody from grating as much as the cover does. It doesn’t become repetitive, like the cover, as the music differs enough from one moment to the next but it’s still not something I’d need to hear again.

Making Flippy Floppy: Moonman fade in. Terrible beats and worse vocals. Now this one is repetitive. It sounds like a bad Prince song. At least the bass and instrumentation are sometimes interesting, but it sounds very dated. There’s a whole tonne of lyrics but from one I can pick up without studying, it sounds like random nonsense. Some sort of snaking solo in the middle, sounds nice but the drums ruin it. Nothing hear to make me want to listen again. I assume a lot of people will like to dance to this, and the lyrics give the appearance of intelligence so it’s okay for people who don’t like generic dance music to get into it. Could have a minute shaved off and not lose anything.

Girlfriend Is Better: Listen – the whole 80s synthesized drums thing has always been a problem for me. I’ve never liked it, and I still don’t. That funky staccato guitar is almost identical in every song so far. The vocals are never going to be for me. A lot of the other musical stuff going on is okay, but the songs themselves and the lead melodies don’t deserve the pieces that I do enjoy. In other words, the songs are crap but there are little pieces int he background which should have been cut and paste into a better song. Once again, if I was off my face and dancing this would be fine, but then someone’s vomit hitting the bowl is enough to make me dance when I’m off my face. Haven’t the time or patience to study the lyrics but they seem the most interesting part. In summary – bits I like, but not enough.

Slippery People: The drums are better in this so far. More blips and blaps. The the same guitar. Then the same vocals. I can’t really say ask to replace the vocals and guitar, and in most cases the drums, because then it would be a completely different band apart from the one everyone else seems to love. Backing vocals spice things up a bit, but unfortunate the whole thing is so monotone. That’s always one of the issues I had with a lot of punk – the lack of vocal melody – but at least it was backed up by sheer force or emotion. This has plenty of groovy backing musical parts which are nice – probably my favourite song so far but that’s hardly saying a lot. I guess I’m interested in what sort of person really loves this. Plenty of people in the comments on Youtube are proclaiming each song as the best ever (standard for any video), but I can’t see your standard punk person getting it. Post-punk yeah, but post-punk rarely works for me, people who like pop and dance stuff I would guess this is too strange for them. For me, it’s both not strange enough, lacks emotion, lacks melody, and it’s too repetitive.

I Get Wild/Wild Gravity: Here come the bad drum sounds. Same guitar, but with echo effects. Sounds like something from a Karate Kid knock-off. I’d appreciate this more if I could see it freaking more people out. I love weird for the sake of weird, but it only works for me when it’s either a complete failure or no-one cares. When it tries to hard to be offbeat and ends up sounding just like everything else, but with a slight twist, then it doesn’t work for me. I think that’s part of the issue with this band and me. It’s commercially weird. It’s not buck nuts. That and the repetition and ‘fake’ nature of the music kills it for me. And the melodies just pass over me like they’re not there.

Swamp: Actually, I’m thankful this is only nine songs. This intro reminds me of one of Rod Stewart’s 80s songs. You know, that one where he’s walking towards the camera with his sleeves up. That’s probably all of them, but anyway. Different vocals and different guitar this time. Still no melodies worth mentioning. It’s funny how all the Youtube comments on these songs are like a secret club It’s funny how those comments are more interesting than the songs. Hand clap drums are the spawn of Putin. The vocals remind me somewhat of Bowie – there’s a range but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. For me, I qualify again. You like them, good for you, but they’re not for me. I like my vocals to be ripped from the guts of Hell.

Moon Rocks: Reggae start? Hope not, because that shit rarely flies with me. Why is every song 5.45? Is that intentional? It’s certainly funky, but I don’t think the vocals fit. The music keeps being more interesting than the melodies. The jangled guitars are back. Nice bass going on. Some sort of moonman interlude. Messing in the studio. Making noise from nothing. This one is so overtly funky that it’s hard to not get down. Probably the best one so far, benefits from the occasional melodic turn. Is there enough for me to care?

Pull Up The Roots: More hand clap beats. Come on – how did know one hear this and immediately think it was a terrible idea? Here come the vocals, all over the place again. Better melody for chorus. More Youtube comments saying how ‘normal’ people won’t get it. That’s just what I’ve been saying. It’s not weird or unusual. If you’re enjoying it and blasting it from your car, it isn’t weird enough, it’s 100% normal. It’s not the vocal style of most bands, but that doesn’t mean normal people don’t get it as much as it means it’s not good. And many many vocalists from the era adopted this style – not sure if this was first but Bowie was at it long before this was released. The best thing I can say is that it is funky or you can dance to it. I rarely consider a song’s ability to make you want to dance as a compliment. A better compliment would be that something like this would never chart today, because everything is so bland – credit for not being bland, but I’d never consider it weird.

This Must Be The Place: It’s just… it sounds so weak. I know I’m a metal and rock fan and am used to songs existing solely to blow my head off, but that’s not all I listen to. I listen to plenty of gentle music in traditionally softer genres, but even those feel more vibrant and energetic than this – not weak. Maybe it’s the artificiality of it. I don’t know. It sounds like standard middle of the road pop to me. Maybe because it’s my first and only listen, but this song just blends in with the others and doesn’t stand out. I know it’s different and even has a different approach, but at this point in the album that central vibe is a plague. Criticism at its best, folks!

What Did I Learn: When people say punk I still immediately think of angry young people screaming over three minute guitar based songs, but there’s more to it. I’ve always known that, but I think this and a lot of other stuff got erroneously labelled punk too. It’s entirely something else, but if people have deemed it punk or post then fine. This was exactly the album and style and sound I anticipated it would be, and my feelings about the band haven’t changed. It’s a sound I don’t enjoy, though I can see why some people do. I don’t understand why it’s held in such high esteem even though I should be the target audience. To me it’s too weak, it’s not weird enough, it’s not as adventurous as it either thinks or as it once was, and the monotonous looping of it all keeps me at arm’s distance.

Do I Think It Should Be In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: My opinion is an easy no. To me it sounds like every other Talking Heads work I’ve ever heard and sounds a hell of a lot like many other 80s bands. That sound is so ingrained that it could be a one-hit wonder act or an established artist or Talking Heads – too similar. Of course I’m aware I’m missing most of the nuances which come with dedicated listens and familiarity, but these posts are all about first time, one time listens. I can’t say how influential this was over any other Talking Heads album but Wikipedia tells me this is their fifth so I can only assume their earlier stuff was more influential? There’s not enough I’ve enjoyed here to spur me on to investigate further, but if you’re a fan fill me in in the comments. As is increasingly the case with these albums, I feel like I should apologise for not liking it and if any fans are reading this they’re probably frothing at the beak at how fucking stupid I am for not getting it. You like it? Great. Not for me. Did I say that already? It’s better than most modern chart stuff, I’ll give it some credit.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 965/1000

Let us know in the comments what you think of Speaking In Tongues!

Nightman’s Introduction To Foreign Cinema Part – A – B

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Welcome back. In Part 1, I begged and pleaded with fists clenched and mouth all-a-foam for you to give peace a chance. Or foreign movies… yeah, that was it – peace is a fool’s hope. Now, I’m going to go through some countries, genres, people, and list some of the films that I think both best represent said countries, genres, and people while also acting as prime examples of gateway films. These are the films which should suck in even the most stubborn quality-denier. There’s an unfortunate caveat – I’m no expert; I’m just some guy. My go to genres are action, horror, sci-fi, comedy and my go to countries are equally limited. I mean, I’ll watch anything but there will always be more I haven’t seen than have. What I’m saying is – I’m not covering African, Indian, Middle Eastern cinema and probably a bunch of others, as my experience and knowledge of these are extremely limited. I’ve seen movies from all of these areas, but nowhere near enough to offer any sort of decent opinion. Lets do this alphabetically:

But before that – I was recently reading a post by someone else recently which perfectly encapsulated my reasoning behind these posts. An otherwise knowledgeable film viewer made (not for the first time) some interesting (stupid) points about foreign film. He seems to take issue with a group of people and the opinions he perceives (or has genuinely heard) them state, and by extension that has biased himself against the films. I admit to being guilty of this sort of thing to – it’s human nature. He bemoans these viewers who apparently dismiss American remakes of foreign movies – even ones he classes as ‘shot for shot’ remakes and goes on to state that the only reason they prefer the original is because of, here he gets vague but I get what he’s aiming for, is because they’re foreign/exotic. Is this simple snobbery? An extension of being a hipster, or some Colonial holdover? I’ll agree that there are people out there who certainly fit this criteria, but I’d go further and say that it’s an extremely small group and that it happens across all forms of media, art, fashion – almost anything. The problem is the guy’s ego and his own reverse confirmation bias has soured him then from ever allowing himself to enjoy the original or go in search of foreign movies.

The fact is, and it is a fact, that Countries other than the USA make great movies every year. Some are remade. Some are not. Some of the remakes are good. Some are not. Personally, I prefer the original to the remake but that’s not because of the reasons he thinks. He unironically later destroys his own point with his own logic by also bemoaning all of the Disney live action remakes as pointless, lifeless, cash-grabs… hold… hold one a second. So, it’s not good for Disney to remake their own classics and the originals are so much better, but when the US remakes a movie from France, Japan, Spain, wherever, it’s much better to watch the remake? Why? What’s the difference? The difference is your own bias. You need to recognise that bias, and get the fuck over it. You’re not a movie fan if you willfully deprive yourself of a film because it’s foreign. Remakes can be exceptional, but in the majority of cases remakes are inferior to the original simply because they are NOT the original. An original is typically born out of creativity, passion, an idea which the creator wants and needs to share. A Remake is typically born out of the desire for quick cash – borrowing an idea already proven to be successful and slapping together a film with less inherent risk attached.

He does make the point that a crap original will likely result in a crap remake – not always the case, and seems completely jaded by the people who he states will praise the original over the remake ‘just because it’s foreign.’ Hey, there are an awful lot of crap foreign movies every year – no doubt. Same with Hollywood. That doesn’t stop you watching Hollywood’s finest, so don’t let it stop you from watching the finest from around the world. Oh yeah, remember the shot for shot remake of Psycho? Crap, right? Because even if it’s shot for shot, you have a different crew, cast, and reason for making the film, never mind the fact that years may have passed or the cultural nuances have been lost. Don’t be a dick, especially if everyone else is. Be better. Then again, he does seem confused and never avoids the opportunity to tell us how much he dislikes horror movies while frequently selecting, guess what, a horror movie as his favourite movie of a given year. But enough of that – lets check out some Foreign Movies.

Australia

Well, that’s handy. Australia is the closest English speaking cousin of UK and US. The culture isn’t so different as to cause any great confusion, many Australian films have had massive worldwide success, and plenty of its filmmakers and stars have also appeared in Hollywood. Australia has a very interesting and varied cinematic history – beginning in earnest around the time of the Second World War where many stars were beginning to perform or beginning to, well, live. It wasn’t until the New Wave in the 1970s that Australian culture began to truly stamp itself on its own productions and that its success grew. For more information on this, I would highly recommend the entertaining documentary Not Quite Hollywood which covers this period and ‘Ozploitation’.

What I think of when I think of Australian movies is Action. Horror too, but mainly Action, often with an offbeat side. Comedy seems to permeate many of the Action, Horror, and Drama films I have seen. In other words, it’s the perfect place to start your foreign movie journey, especially if you love car crash carnage, bullets, and gore. I’m making it sound like Australia is limited, and that is by no means the case – it’s simply the best place to start. In recent years quite a few more dramatic films have come out which have been superb.

Notable Gateway FilmsLion (Oscar nominated 2016), Mad Max series (some of best action ever seen on screen), Crocodile Dundee series (call that a knoife?), Babe (that’ll do, pig), Moulin Rouge! (Oscar Winner 2001), Animal Kingdom (Australian Crime Drama 2010), Tomorrow When The War Began (cool teen action movie), Mad Dog Morgan (Dennis Hopper, fucking shit up) Wolf Creek series (torture porn, Oz style), Gallipoli  (1981 war epic), Picnic At Hanging Rock (unnerving 1975 drama), The Proposition (2005 Austrlian Western), The Babadook (celebrated 2014 horror movie), The Loved Ones (quirky 2009 horror), Chopper (amusing and violent 2000 biopic), Wake In Fright (Australia’s Straw Dogs), Rogue (the best of Australia’s many Jaws imitators), Lake Mungo (disturbing 2008 psychological horror).

Notable Directors: Baz Luhrmann (Australia), James Wan (Saw), George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet), Russell Mulcahy (Highlander), Philip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence), Alex Proyas (The Crow), Peter Weir (The Truman Show). 

Notable Stars: Errol Flynn, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Eric Bana, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Imbruglia, George Lazenby, Russell Crowe, The Hemsworths, Sam Worthington, Wayne Pygram, Jesse Spencer, Rose Byrne, Isla Fisher, Melissa George, Virginia Hey, Claudia Black, Margot Robie.

Austria

I’ll admit I know very little of Austria’s cinematic history – obviously it had a tumultuous period around WWII and only recently has experience new found success. I’m really including it here due to a number of stars who identify as Austrian.

Notable Gateway Films: Malina (Isabelle Hupert being awesome), Benny’s Video (disturbing drama about a disturbed boy), Funny Games (disturbing movie about disturbing young men), The Edukators (drama about college age activists teaching the super rich some sort of lesson), The Headsman (Jamie Lannister romping with a sword), Taxidermia (completely buck nuts joint venture with Hungary with pig sex and firey ejaculations… yeah, probably not a good gateway choice), The Counterfeiters (Oscar winning drama about a Nazi plan to destroy the British economy),

Notable Directors: Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), GW Pabst (Komodianten), Otto Preminger (Anatomy Of Murder), Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon), Jessica Hausner (Lovely Rita). 

Notable Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Erich von Stroheim, Lotte Lenya, Maria Schell, Romy Schneider, Paul Henreid, Curd Jurgens, Peter Lorre, Maximillian Schell, Otto Schenk, Oskar Werner, Christoph Waltz.

Argentina

Argentina is, I think, the only South American country to win Oscars, and yet it’s a region I don’t follow too much outside of the most obvious picks. I understand there was a Golden Age around the thirties to fifties, and the industry has again picked up since the mid eighties.

Notable Gateway FilmsCocaine Wars (one of Roger Corman’s 80s action movies for Argentina), Tango (if you like the dance, watch the movie), The Motorcycle Diaries (Gael Garcia Bernal as Che), The Secret In Their Eyes (the impact of rape and murder over time).

Notable Directors: Juan Jose Campanella (The Secret In Their Eyes, The Man Of Your Dreams), Eduardo Mignogna (La Fuga, The Lighthouse), Damian Szifron (Wild Tales, Pretenders), Lucia Puenzo (XXY).

Notable Stars: Castulo Guerra (T2, The Usual Suspects), Lalo Schifrin (composer of Mission Impossible Theme, Enter The Dragon, Rush Hour Series), Barry Norton (Casablanca, To Catch A Thief), Alejandro Rey (The Ninth Configuration, Breakout), Olivia Hussey (Romeo And Juliet, Black Christmas), Mia Maestro (Twilight Series, Frida), 

Brazil

Similar to Argentina, this is not an area I know a lot about, but I am at least a little more familiar, especially since the turn of the millennium.

Notable Gateway FilmsPixote (grim 1980 tale of corruption and its impact on youth), Heart & Guts (bawdy comedy set in girls school), Kiss Of The Spider Woman (multi Oscar nominated crime drama), A Dog’s Will (bizarre comedy mixing farce and religion), City Of God (gangs of youths struggle for survival in a busy favela), Only God Knows (Alice Braga and Diego Luna get it on), Elite Squad (gangs and cops clash with tonnes of action), Coffin Joe Trilogy (Brazilian Horror with an ‘endearing’ lead bad guy), Lower City (Alice Braga gets it on with two friends),

Notable Directors: Walter Salles, Suzana Amaral, Fernando Meirelles, Hector Babenco, Sergio Machado, Jose Mojica Marins, Jose Padilha, Andrucha Waddington,

Notable Stars: Alice Braga

Belgium

My final entry in this mammoth post is Belgium – France’s little brother. Because of Belgium’s geographical and cultural position it shares a lot of its cinema with that of France, but also of Germany and The Netherlands. Due to that and my own limited knowledge there are only a handful of obvious films I can recommend – Man Bites Dog is a brutal classic satire on violence, but isn’t for the faint of heart or anyone who doesn’t like hand-held stuff, Mr Nobody is an underrated oddball Sci-Fi starring Jared Leto and Sarah Polley, and Left Bank is a modern take on Repulsion. Horror fans might like to give Amer a shot.

Notable Directors and Stars: Chantal Akerman (Jean Dielman, News From Home), Dardenne Brothers (L’Enfant, Two Days One Night), Felix Van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown), Jaco Van Dormael (Mr Nobody, The Brand New Testament), Matthias Schoenaerts (Black Book, The Danish Girl), Jean Claude Van Damme (Timecop, Universal Soldier), Lubna Azabal (Incendies, Body Of Lies), Ronald Guttman (Hunt For Red October, Welcome To The Punch).

Let us know in the comments which films from any of the nations above you have seen, loved, hated, or if you’re going to take the plunge!

 

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Tonight!

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back in Bowieville today with an album I know absolutely nothing about. Most of the Bowie albums, even though I had not previously listened to them, I was at least aware of their name or their popularity or success. This one I don’t recall ever hearing of, so my first assumption is that it was not well received. Lets check the tracklist… oh. Is this a cover album? It seems like at least half of the songs are covers… that usually means a quick rush job to capitalize on success and keep things ticking over while you plan your actual next album. Right, all signs point towards this not being great, but I hope I’m wrong.

Loving The Alien: Well, this certainly starts out with an 80s vibe – that dreadful 80s drum sound is here in full force, but the overall 80s vibe isn’t too cheesy, instead hitting the right nostalgic chord with me. The vocals… I’m not sure yet whether they are okay are annoying…. bit of both really. Great bridge between verse and chorus. It’s just a tad odd, not enough to put most people off, but just odd enough for people to mutter ‘wtf is this’ to themselves while still liking it. I haven’t, or can’t pay attention to the lyrics here… seems to be something about religion? A good guitar solo/off kilter string section in the middle, leads to a longer instrumental section which is mostly a repetition of the main melody along with strings. Then a guitar solo. Just an extended jam to close. This was perfectly fine – not amazing, not bad, interesting.

Don’t Look Down: Neon drenched steamy US detective show. With added reggae. I’m not a fan of the whole white boy reggae thing. I don’t think I’ve heard the original. It’s slow. Pretty one-note, doesn’t change much from minute to minute. Nothing wrong, but I wouldn’t choose to listen to it again.

God Only Knows: Hmm, well it’s different enough from the original. Very deep vocals, made into more of a drone than what The Beach Boys did. I like the string parts and the stutters. Added horns.

Tonight: You know it’s the 80s when people duet with Tina Turner. More reggae, so not to my tastes. I would enjoy this song much more if they didn’t go for that style, as it’s quite sweet and soothing. I think I’ve heard the original, but can’t remember it at the moment.

Neighbourhood Threat: So, it’s A View To A Kill. Man, this reeks of a lost 80s power rock classic. Again, I’ve probably heard the original, but can’t recall it. Still, this is my favourite on the album since the opener.

Blue Jean: There is a consistent sound and tone throughout the album, I’ll give it that. And even with all the 80s stuff, it never becomes too 80s.

Tumble And Twirl: This one is a little bit reggae, a little disco, and a little 80s rock. Too many horns for my liking. Turns into a bit of a dancing bonanza. Goes on a bit.

I Keep Forgettin: This isn’t overly different from the original, retaining a streamlined old fashioned rock and roll feel. Definitely feels like a bit of random B material.

Dancing With The Big Boys: With all the Iggy covers it only seems fitting to close on a song which features him. Drums feel like the opening to another Bond song. Guitar kind of follows that line of thought. Too many trumps for my liking, as is the case many many times. This comes across as just another average, forgettable rock song.

So, a consistently 80s sounding record without falling into the usual trappings of 80’s guff. It still sounds like a Bowie album, even if a lot of the songs are covers, and unlike many of the other stars of the 70s who struggled to keep up with the new decade. I’d likely only listen to two of the songs again, and the rest is miscellaneous take it or leave it stuff. Not good, not bad, very indifferent. At least it wasn’t an embarrassment, but it’s not one I’ll remember. Let us know your thoughts on Tonight in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Loving The Alien. Neighbourhood Threat.

Best Art Direction – 1976

Official Nominations: All The President’s Men. The Incredible Sarah. The Last Tycoon. Logan’s Run. The Shootist.

A clear front-runner and winner this year with All The President’s Men being set in the familiar locations of a bustling workplace and real life DC hotspots. The newsroom was entirely recreated for the film, but you wouldn’t know it given how realistic it all feels, while everything from the lighting to the costumes feel sweaty and tangible and at once closing in and expanding with possibility. Logan’s Run gets the Sci-Fi nod and is one of the more unique (for the time) visions of a possible future. Cheesy now, I’ve always had a fondness for the sets and the overall look. The Last Tycoon is probably famed now more for its authentic setting than the plot or performances while I’m not sure anyone remembers (or needs to remember) The Incredible Sarah. Finally, The Shootist is a now underrated Don Siegel Western featuring John Wayne – his last role – his character bemoaning the end of ‘The Old West’ and the film representing loss in both its look and plot.

My Winner: All The President’s Men

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My Nominations: All The President’s Men. The Last Tycoon. Logan’s Run. 1900. Bugsy Malone. Carrie. Marathon Man.

I add everything from musicals to horror movies to the three copied from the Official Nominations. 1900 is an epic in every sense, and if there is one thing most epics have in common it is a painstaking attention to detail, with Bertolucci and co showcasing the skills learned in previous stylized films such as The Conformist. Bugsy Malone, as much as I hate it, has a very specific look and feel which suits the malarkey of the story and its gimmick perfectly. Carrie is an exercise in stylized editing and post-menstrual pressure with both home and school rarely shown to be anything more than different levels of hell, while Marathon Man uses shadow and light to torment the viewer like few other films.

My Winner: All The President’s Men

Let us know your winner in the comments!

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part 2

Lets continue with my favourite Beatles songs, in alphabetic order until the top 26 or so. Here’s Part One if you missed it.

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56. All You Need Is Love

I always laugh at the ironic intro to this – the trumpet anthem blaring, before reminding the listener that maybe war isn’t good and all you need is love. It does come across as a little preachy and I’ve never liked the droopy brass which plays after the title vocal. Otherwise it’s another wonderful anthem, syrupy enough to charm the staunchest cynic.

55. Baby It’s You

There’s about a million great versions of this song, so credit to everyone involved in creating it in the first instance. I’m not a huge fan of Beatles covers, but this one stands out thanks to the harmonies which suited the band’s early sound, along with the slightly harsher edge to the vocals.

54. Don’t Let Me Down

I love how this goes straight into the weary, wrenching chorus almost immediately. Both the live and studio version of this great, the funky organ, the single note percussion versus the smashing in the chorus, the bass in the second verse, and how the vocals get increasingly strained. If there was a bit more variety here it would be one of my favourites.

53. Day Tripper

My first memory of this is from some Amiga game one of my friends had in the 80s or early 90s. I had no idea it was The Beatles until I heard the song much later. It’s a fine example of a terrific riff which doesn’t become repetitive even though it’s played constantly, and the feel-good verses elevate it to a higher ranking – it’s only the chorus which lets the whole down.

52. Free As A Bird

I know this song and Real Love get a lot of hate or disregard from Beatles fans… for me it doesn’t stop them from being good songs. I remember the fuss about this from when it was released and I remember watching the premiere on TOTP. I remember wondering what all the fuss was about too. The song stayed with me though, and I’m pretty sure I only heard it that single time until years later when I started listening to the band in earnest. It’s still too slow and dreamy to get me fully on board but I love the ideas and melodies.

51. Good Day Sunshine

Pure McCartney cheese, but this is Revolver we’re talking about so everything is gold. Everything is flawless from the introduction and withdrawal of each instrument, to the super happy friends vibe of it all.

50. Golden Slumbers

I’m not a huge fan of the last couple of Beatles albums – they sound too tired and out of ideas for too many songs, but then they unleash gems like this and wish the rest of the said albums could have been as strong. This is very simple, though the backing orchestration lifts it to near heavenly heights – I’m one of the few who loves McCartney’s voice here – I only wish it was longer.

49. Here, There, And Everywhere

As mentioned above, on Revolver almost every idea paid off brilliantly – what could have come off as boring and dreary avoids the pitfalls and ends up as another touching, insightful ballad.

48. I Need You

This isn’t a song you’ll see on many fan’s lists of favourites. It works for me, even if it is a simple love song. Once again I revert to my love of engaging melodies, and the little volume knob guitar trick keeps things interesting. It’s not a great song, but there’s something here which makes me enjoy it more than other better regarded songs.

47. I’ll Follow The Sun

It’s always interesting to me how The Beatles could write so many perfect pop songs and keep them so short. This is an endearing ballad which is barely over 90 seconds long. It gets to the point immediately, it cuts away the chaff, it even finds time for a guitar solo, and you’ll be singing it long after it has ended.

46. I Saw Her Standing There

The Beatles rarely rocked as raw as they did on their debut – this is the opening track from their first album and it remains a breakneck, rollicking statement of intent. I much prefer these original compositions to the blues covers that they used to bulk out their early sets. There’s nothing extraordinary in the writing here, but it’s the combination of energy, talent, melodies, harmony, and how tight the group feels which marked them as special from the start.

45. If I Fell

This one threatens to be overly dreary what with those minor chords and vocal drawls, but then it builds up to a very sweet chorus. That chorus though, turns out to not in fact be a chorus but the entire rest of the song – the intro is a trick start – the band already playing with conventions and expectations.

44. I’ll Be Back

Another one of the very many Beatles songs I find very underrated. It’s one I had no idea existed until I started working through the albums. I love the interplay of the harmonies, between major and minor, seemingly giving a sense of conflict, pain, and indecision.

43. Let It Be

From underrated to overrated. I was close to not including Let It Be at all – it’s one of their songs which is constantly played, constantly covered, and one we all know long before we ever listen to one of their albums. I can’t doubt that it’s a great song, but for me it suffers from being dull. I’m in the minority.

42. Love Me Do

This is another song I had heard countless times before playing a Beatles album in full, this one differs because it still gives me that sense of youthful fun. It’s child like in its simplicity and in effect becomes almost like a nursery rhyme – you learn it at birth and never forget it. The band did melody like no other group at the time.

41. Lovely Rita

McCartney up to his old tricks again – jaunty rhythms which would sound trite and overly saccharine in the hands of almost anyone else. Somehow all the literal bells and whistles and comedy sounds and Carry On lyrics don’t feel overly dated here – nope, they sound like a band having fun, experimenting, and taking the piss without giving a crap.

40. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Like in the aforementioned song, only a handful of artists could take a bellyful of drugs and rhyme off nonsense but make the overall product compelling and not laughable. Even The Beatles would fail at this trick in a few short years, but here everything they touched simply worked. It doesn’t matter who or what Lucy is, it doesn’t matter what they may or may not be singing about – they’re singing, they’re playing, just enjoy.

39. Magical Mystery Tour

Some will say it’s sacrilege ranking this song higher than the one before. While it’s true that the ranking here isn’t important, I think I do prefer this one to Lucy. It feels more fun to me, almost like the band realised all the crap that they had been spouting and decided to go along with it anyway, without the faux-seriousness and philosophy they had previously attempted.

38. Norwegian Wood

The song taken from one of my favourite books. Heh. Just making sure you’re paying attention. Murakami was inspired by this piece of lovelorn whimsy, one of their love songs that touches genuine honesty instead of a blast of catchy homilies. A mixture of acoustic guitar and George’s Indian antics, it’s a lumbering, simple song but with unavoidable melody dripping like the sweat of a college student getting home with his girl on their first date.

37. Octopus’s Garden

If it was good enough for the rest of the band to be off their faces on goofballs, then it was good enough for Ringo. Enter Octopus’s Garden. As it’s Ringo, you already know what the rhythm will cbe and what the vocals and overall tone will be. It’s a lot of fun and it’s perfect for kids, and hopefully not even the most sour and cynical adult (me) will hate it.

36. She’s Leaving Home

McCartney experiments with a harp, a string section, and a story about a sad family event from the perspective of parents. In another’s hands this could feel like a bad Hallmark movie, but he and the band imbue it with enough real emotion and smarts that it succeeds. The chorus dual vocals and melodies are glorious and the strings are tasteful and emotive.

35. Tomorrow Never Knows

The production on some of The Beatles albums is such that they feel like they could have been recorded today, not half a century ago. This song sounds perfectly modern as well as clearly being a 60s event. The backwards arsing about, the various sounds and techniques, and my god the drumming, all feel super-modern even now to the extent that most current artists releasing music today sound stale and behind the times when compared with this.

34. The Night Before

Back now with more streamlined, straightforward pop rock, and therefore it’s all about the melodies and harmonies. Few albums have generated so many instant classics as Help! and this is considered one of the lesser ones from that album. It’s so pleasingly simple, it borrows a lot of the harder edged R’n’B of their earlier days but adds a bopping rhythm and electric piano to give it something unique.

33. With A Little Help From My Friends

I grew up with The Wonder Years version of this – a song that I disliked so much that it put me off that show. I was never a huge fan of the show anyway, but something about the joining of song and show left me very depressed. I bet it was always on TV here on Sundays. I knew it was a Beatles song originally, but I don’t think I actually heard it until the first time I listened to Sgt Pepper in full. It completely changed my opinion of the song, it’s just so much more fun and honest than Cocker’s senseless grumbles.

32. Within You Without You

Probably the peak of the band’s messing around with Sitars and the like but still the first thing it makes me think of is Mario burning his ass on lava and hopping around in circles yelping like a… well, a burnt Italian. Usually I wouldn’t like a song like this – too sleepy and the vocals too slurred and dreamy, everything shimmering and wavering too much. Yet it works for me, the vocal melody comically follows the sitar, there are strings backing things, the band has the audacity to make half the song instrumental, just jamming away in dreamlike, mystical fashion. There’s so much going on here that I wouldn’t even hazard a guess as to the numbers of musicians and instruments involved.

31. When I’m 64

At first listen for me at least, this sounds purely comical – like a joke recording. Then you hear the words and the sincerity and remember that it’s McCartney and it takes on its own special life. There’s no getting away from how funny those opening notes and instruments are, but the song gets better as it goes along that you’re converted from cynic to believer. The only part I can’t forgive is the ‘Vera, Chuck, and Dave’ which makes me cringe inexplicably every time.

30. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road

McCartney unleashing a raw slice of of late blues rock, early proto punk. I mean, not really, but it has that snarling vocal and that angry guitar and simplicity that it’s easy to make such comparisons. The Beatles rarely cut loose and recorded something so overtly sexual and heavy – maybe they should have tried it more.

29. Yellow Submarine

Another Ringo special, more pure nonsense, and another one for the kids. You’ll be whistling it for days.

28. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

You could always rely on Lennon to go to the darker places when singing about love. This being on Help! though, you can be sure it’s infectious. The percussion is much softer with tambourine and brushes on the snares, we have a flute ending, and all the guitars are acoustic.

27. You Never Give Me Your Money

I’m fairly critical of the last two albums the band made, or at least as critical as you can be, but this underrated ballad is one of their best – that opening just sounds so sad. When I first Abbey Road and how all the last songs merged into a whole I thought this song was only a minute long – it wasn’t until later I realised the heavier second section and the ‘one sweet dream’ part etc were all part of the same song. They do all feel like separate parts but they hold together – I do still prefer the first section though.

Join me next time for my final post and to find out what my all time favourite songs by The Beatles are!