Best Writing (Adapted) – 1979

Official Nominations: Kramer Vs Kramer. Apocalypse Now. La Cage Aux Folles. A Little Romance. Norma Rae.

Kramer Vs Kramer continues its winning streak by picking up the Adapted Screenplay Award. I’m not much of a fan of films which spend a considerable amount of their running time in Court, but the intensity, integrity, and emotion of the performances keeps things interesting. Time has passed so the legal stuff is hit and miss and the dialogue is plain rather than quotable. Apocalypse Now is the very definition of quotable, with a number of speeches and one-liners becoming iconic, definitive moments of Cinema, turning yet another school-kid-hated-text into something monumental. La Cage Aux Folles is a funny enough story but it seems strange it was ever nominated here given some of the ‘crass’ material. Norma Rae is a much more credible nomination – The Academy loves a heart-warming underdog story, and if it’s a biography – all the better. Finally, A Little Romance is a little seen film with a terrific cast which almost never works, a saccharine script which probably only works on a specific person at a specific place in their life.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Critical Essay | by GoPeer | GoPeer | Medium

My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Escape From Alcatraz. Nosferatu The Vampyre. Quadrophenia. Scum. The Warriors.

Only my choice of winner makes it over to my own nominations where I add five films which never stood a chance of picking up a genuine nomination. Quadrophenia may be the most interesting of these seeing as the film is adapted from the album of the same name. I generally enjoy when bands are so overblown that they decide to branch into film – it almost never works well, and it works even less when it’s the story of an album rather than some standalone story which just happens to feature the band. Quadrophenia works so well because it is a time-honoured tale of adolescence, a coming of age story set against the Mods vs The Rockers and featuring music from The Who’s best album. The dialogue, while trenched in the era and place, is not a barrier to modern or foreign viewers and features the gritty realism you would expect from British cinema but as a whole it is less kitchen sink drama and more an energetic quest of rebellion and purpose.

Escape From Alcatraz is one of the finest prison break movies, dispensing with such tired devices such as love interests and exhaustive dialogue, and instead doubles down on the bare essentials – clever inmate decides to escape from inescapable prison. An odd choice for this category then, but the screenplay takes the core details from the true life story and transforms it into a taut and streamlined action thriller. Keeping on the topic of streamlining – the original novel of The Warriors deals more heavily in the main characters’ motivations while also exploring modern notions of family, sexuality, machismo, and the very nature of the gangs themselves. Hill and Shaber’s film is more minimalist in theme and plot and instead succeeds as a quotable proto-Western, a road movie on foot, a cross-country chase from one end of a city to another, and the fantasy of a possible future of laws based on codes of honour rather than ticker tape, bureaucracy, and entrenched white ideals.

Scum doesn’t make for pleasant viewing, but that’s precisely the point. It’s as hard hitting as it needs to be, with a gavel thud of violence and language which raises the bar over the original BBC version. Nosferatu adds precious dialogue and characterisation over the original and while the general outline of the Dracula story should be familiar to all viewers, there are enough changes to satisfy experienced fans of that story, from the portrayal of the lead characters, to their respective conclusions.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Excision

Image result for excision movie

Controversy is a funny thing. Subjects deemed controversial hundreds of years, or even mere decades ago, are now spoken of fondly in polite conversation while the number of taboo topics grows ever smaller. When you through artistic license into the mix, the boundaries become further blurred. While these shifts in opinion are largely governed by the wider shifts of the religious, political, moral, and cultural landscapes, film, music, and art have each made a significant impact. In this enlightened (or corrupt, depending on which side of the argument you may be on) 21st Century, everything is fair game in Cinema as long as you’re not breaking any laws. And as long as the censors are cool with it. It’s unusual then that a film such as Excision garnered so much controversy upon release given that it was, for my money, a fairly tame and humourous trip down a filthy suburban lane.

Excision is as camp as a Drama teacher named Joan. You could be mistaken for thinking it was a lost John Waters movie from the 90s, such is the comedic and dramatic tone. Indeed, Waters himself appears as a bewildered church minister trying to lead one of his flock back to the path of righteousness. That particular lost lamb is an outcast teenager, a rebellious young woman by the name of Pauline who has nightly sexual fantasies about mutilation and medical operations. These scenes attempt to show the degree of her disturbed mind, but for the majority of the film I found her to be a relatively normal teen archetype. Plagued by cold sores for most of her life after her similarly afflicted father saved her from drowning as a child, she is depicted as a moderately gruesome physical presence – at least when viewed alongside her innocent young sister, the cool kids in school, and the pretty jump-roping neighbour across the street. Given that Pauline is played by professional model AnnaLynne McCord, it’s an effective make-up job. McCord gives a snarling and emotive performance as the troubled teen whose only goal in life is to become a doctor (primarily so that she can cut shit up) and to protect her sister, whose cystic fibrosis could snatch her life at any moment. Surrounding McCord we have a range of familiar faces – Traci Lords is well suited as the middle class soccer mom trying to live the American Dream and constantly sniping at her bored and whipped husband (a slumped Roger Bart). Elsewhere, Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, and Marlee Matlin pop up.

The funny thing about the controversy, mainly in the form of reviews, is that a lot of these came from seasoned horror fans and websites claiming the film is both unforgettable and difficult to stomach. In truth, the scattered scenes of gore are shot beautifully – as the dream sequences that they are – and everything is most definitely played for tongue in cheek shocks, such as Pauline choosing to lose her virginity to a local jock and asking him to go down on her knowing she is having her period. The only real shock, which felt inevitable throughout the entire film, is the ending. Indeed it’s an ending I wasn’t offended by in a graphical sense – there’s nothing even a generic horror fan hasn’t seen before – but more because of the tragedy of it, although I don’t believe there was a confirmation that one of the characters involved is actually dead even if it is implied.

My main issue with the film came from my uncertainty over how I was meant to feel in certain moments – was I meant to side with Pauline and feel her pain, or see her as a mentally disturbed figure? Beyond the ending, I didn’t feel any true insanity within her. Was I supposed to be shock by the gore and the actions of certain characters, when the tone is so blatantly humorous? Director/writer Richard Bates Jr manages to pull together a stellar indie cast who all revel in the script, and it is clear he has a fondness for the seedier underbelly of suburbia and the modern world – especially when we are aware of his more recent works. Anyone who may have been put off by some of the negative or more finger-wagging reviews should consider those as somewhat over the top – if you’re a John Waters or a Horror fan then you’ll probably get a kick out of Excision, but it’s difficult to see an audience beyond those hallowed, unfazed groups.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Excision!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Holidays In Eden (Side B)!

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Greetings, Glancers! When I was finalizing my thoughts on Side A or Side B, I found a random snippet of text in the middle of a couple of paragraphs which didn’t seem to relate to anything within those paragraphs, so rather than lose it I’m going to use it as my non-sequitor intro to this post – ‘I think the album may have been a greater success if it had been released in the 80s. It’s an alarming change when viewed alongside their debut, and is very much an MOR pop rock record with singalong melodies dripping out of each song’

Holidays In Eden has a touch of The Who and The Police. Not for the first time in the band’s career. If there was any song on this album which felt familiar it was this one – I don’t see how I possibly would have heard this before, unless it was on a movie soundtrack, but since hearing it I have been scratching my head to try and place where I know it from, if I know it at all. Having said that, it’s a bit of a shark-jump moment. I’m not sure what the intent was for this one – there are spots of nice music – the quiet guitar parts in the verses, maybe the lyrics, but the bouncier moments are bizarre. It turns into this weird clownish thing with H sounding like Sting, the keyboard sounding like a moped struggling to start, and a rhythm which just irked me from the off. All I could think of when hearing the bouncy moments in this was Bob Mortimer dancing – in fact, here’s a clip of the exact moment I’m thinking of. That’s the same song, right? I struggled to find enough to say about this one because I had to skip through those bouncy bits. There’s a non-eventful guitar solo… the riffs are uppy downy but in a nauseating manner, and the ending is a ludicrous dead stop. 

Dry Land restores some sanity and normality to proceedings. The guitar in the intro and verses reminded me of Somebody’s Baby from Fast Times At Ridgemont High. It’s a particularly earwormly chorus. Earwormly? I don’t know. I think this album, more than any other so far, has the best selection of singles. The right songs were picked as singles, and the most melodic of these have been my most played songs around the house up this point. To the extent that I’ve caught my daughters shouting ‘Alexa, play Cover My Eyes’. 

H gives a laissez-faire, sultry vocal for the verses – almost like he’s being coy or playing hard to get – and he saves the bigger notes and expression for the chorus. It’s a very strong performance for a melody which dips and peaks suddenly and wouldn’t be the easiest to perform in such a smooth and relaxed manner. I found myself not paying attention to the rest of the band for this one – there rhythm and percussion side of things is consistent and happy to underpin the vocal, while there’s a lot of layers to what the guitars are doing. 

The lyrics range from curious, defensive, pleading, afraid – the mental state of someone in love from afar, desperate to make the next move, but terrified of doing so. The object of these affections is somewhere between being placed on a pedestal and being seen as a natural solitary soul. I think this sentiment should be fairly universal for those of us who have fallen for a certain type of person, and allow ourselves to be wrapped up in a torment of indecision, adulation, and self-doubt. The language is easily understood and the words allow the difficult melody to navigate freely.

The first comment I jotted down for Waiting To Happen was ‘a wedding first dance song. Possibly even more so than Grendel’. That was before I heard the first Holidays In Eden Part 1 Podcast episode where Sanja referred to a track on Side A as a Wedding song – to be honest her pick was probably the better choice. At the very least, this a lighters up song. Does the, presumably older, audience who attends Marillion shows still use lighters or do they use phone like everyone else? 

It’s a pure power ballad – if I think of early 90s power ballads which were going out of style by this point – stuff like Wind Of Change, Always, Mr Big’s To Be With You – a few of the ingredients which made those so successful can be found in this one, though there’s a higher percentage of emotional desperation and yearning in Waiting To Happen and reduced levels of cheese. It was apparent on my early listens that the lyrics felt more poetic, though my mind and ears could have been dazed by the spell the music put me under. It’s quite lovely – the ‘nicest’ song on the album but probably out of the four most commercial songs on the album it’s my fourth favourite currently. Which means it’s my fourth favourite song on the album. 

There’s quite a tonal difference between the verse and the chorus, and even within the pre-chorus, and it’s here that the twist on the power ballad formula becomes apparent; Most power ballads are unashamedly about being in love, or falling out of love. This musically bounces back and forth between those in a musical sense – if we think of being in love, that is a positive thing which we would attach a major key or major chords to, while a break-up or some related anguish would normally be played to the tune of minor chords. We have both, and the lyrics further blur the lines to the extent that it’s never really clear which side of the debate we should be on. I’ve tried to write my thoughts on this with some degree of clarity but have given up numerous times – the summary of my thoughts going somewhere along the lines of ‘the verses point to positives and negatives, the chorus points to positives and negatives’. Assuming this is an H lyric, we’ve come to learn that he does write in this vague catch-all way, but at times I questioned whether the song was even about another person or rather another version of himself. I’m sure the truth is far more simple. No matter what it’s about, it’s another lovely song, part of a quartet of lovely songs.

I’m not sure what the thought what process was for This Town – ‘you know all those terrible Country one hit wonders you hear on US Rock Radio stations which think they’re heavy an bluesy but they’re really not? Lets do one of those!’

It’s not great – it’s tame and it’s silly, but to their credit they do sound like they’re having fun. It’s jolly and bouncy and there’s a couple of more interesting moments towards the end. It sounds like a car chase caper movie soundtrack. This is probably the song I dismissed most quickly on this album – a distinctly average rock song which ends with a tasty solo, but it’s too little too late to allow my thoughts on the overall song to change.

The Rake’s Progress was a pain to find on Youtube as a standalone track, with various ‘video blocked in your region’ messages and the only alternative being to play the track as part of a trio including the previous and next track. Then I remember Paul mentioning there being a longer three part piece on Side B, of which this must be the middle piece. I say this all because it meant I listened to this song less than most others. It’s a rambling piece – it makes sense that it’s part of a larger arc of music and if I’m honest it doesn’t really work on its own, whereas This Town and 100 Nights do. I’m not sure why they didn’t just make this the intro of 100 Nights. It’s fine but I don’t think there’s much here to make me seek it out. 

100 Nights is the requisite epic to close the album. It feels like the proggiest song on the album, which is unusual because there aren’t too many changes in time signatures or tone or anything else. While previous songs have been labelled as dirges, this one felt more like a dirge to me primarily because it was all a little one note and felt like a slog to get through. It isn’t musically a dirge (as those are traditionally in the minor key or slower) but it isn’t very exciting. There is a particularly screechy solo in the middle which I was hoping would lead into a more interesting second half, but that second half is instead a louder shoutier version of the first half. The last couple of minutes are more promising and feel like a tacked on idea for a song they couldn’t quite work out how to transform into its own thing. There is a lyrical call-back to This Town. An anti-climactic ending to the album.

If anything, the lyrics highlight the boredom and indifference I felt towards the music, with the narrator bemoaning the repetition and monotony of his existence. There seems to be a bit about how fame changes you, but we’ve already been more than well-versed in this concept over the previous few albums, and many of the lyrics just seem like random nothings added to fill space – ‘you don’t know that I come here, but if you did, you would know why’ – I’m sure that means something that isn’t pervy, but vague, meaningless. There’s enough in the final couple of verses to suggest that the song genuinely is about… something… but I’m sure a hundred people could give a hundred different interpretations and they’d each be as tedious as the next. 

cover art for Script For A Jester's Tear - Side 1

On to the podcast and talk of steamers, which is one of the many terms for a type of poo my friends would have used in school days gone by, along with ‘the flock of sparrows’, ‘plopper’, ‘pebble dash’, ‘grunties’, ‘brown disgrace’ and the always controversial ‘depth charge’. Dry Land was apparently a song from H’s previous band repurposed for Marillion. Is popped out another poo thing? Or a boob thing? Everything’s a thing now. I’m glad Sanja picked up on how tricky the song is to sing – it is made to look easier than it actually is. Sanja loves it, Paul isn’t much of a fan but still better than average. Out of the four commercial poppy songs on the album, it’s my third favourite. 

With Waiting To Happen, Paul and Sanja both agree it is a lovely pure love song, while I wasn’t so sure and sensed some negativity or cynicism. Maybe it was fear and apprehension coming through, translating to negativity? They both love it – it’s their favourite on the album. They don’t spend much time discussing this song, because there is worse to come… such as This Town which Paul was looking forward to before the album release due to some prior version being high in his estimation. He was therefore disappointed by what it became. The most similar example I have of this phenomenon in my own musical memory would be JJ72’s City. The band played this song live a few times after the release of their stellar debut, and had me excited to hear it on their second (above and beyond the singles they subsequently released). Imagine my disappointment when the album version of City stripped away all of the venom and force and emotion of the earlier version. The same could be said of much of JJ72’s second album. Radiohead did something similar when they finally released a studio version of the once glorious True Love Waits – and turned it into an empty collection of robotic noises.

The guys aren’t overly impressed or effusive about the final three songs – neither enjoy This Town, they’re fine, they both appreciate the lyrics of the final two parts, but Paul says the whole thing is a slog live. Is 100 Nights about The Invisible Man? In which case – pervy. I was half-expecting Paul to love this one because it’s a bit more prog-oriented, but no, that’s one of the reasons he doesn’t like it. I don’t hate it – I don’t care enough to hate it – and I have the luxury of being a Marillion pleb so I can say it’s a bit rubbish. Incidentally, I can’t hear the name Chris Neil without thinking about The Exorcist (Mac). They some up their thoughts on the album – some highish highs, some steamers. 

We move into some talk of the other B-Sides which I haven’t bothered listening to, then the spoiler that the next album is both scary, dark, and a bit of a departure. They also made a film of the album. Paul’s making a big deal of it now, so I’m a bit concerned I’m going to think it’s shit. I’ve seen various posts on BYAMPOD on Twitter regarding the next album, but I’ve purposely avoided them. They give a little more info on where The Rake’s Progress name came from – fair enough. We’re (well, you’re) fans – the product is out there and we can’t be expected to lie to ourselves about our feelings. There are plenty of Manics songs where I will gladly kick Nicky in the nuts for giving them birth. Man… I hate when my wife crunches crisps with her mouth open. IT’S ALWAYS THE THIRD CRUNCH! <munch munch CRUNCH STOP!> I wouldn’t say I have this feeling about any song by a band I love, as I’ll just go out of my way to ignore it and not listen to it. And as die-hard fans, I think you’ve somehow earned the right to have strong personal feelings about this band you adore. Someone who blindly loves everything… that’s a more disturbing level of adoration that’s bordering on unhealthy obsession. I tend to trust the opinions of people I already know and can gauge our aligned musical tastes before choosing to listen to something they recommend. And as they’re my friends I can tell them their taste is terrible without getting slapped. I knew nothing of Paul’s musical tastes before starting out on this nonsense but the general area of Prog is something I wanted to expand into and I was happy to give Marillion a shot. 

The rest of the episode is a a listeners’ letters thing, so maybe my email will be answered. Beerman doesn’t like Cover My Eyes. Go have another beer, man! The next bloke loved the band already but has seen his love revitalized thanks to the podcast – that’s great. I have to admit, I don’t know if I would have been a fan if I had heard the band when I was the same age as when Paul first heard them. Back then it was all grunge and metal and angry men shouting stuff angrily… and sounding angry when they did it. Whether or not this was a maturity thing, their general sound I doubt would have pulled me in. If they had been a band with a little more mysticism surrounding them or more cult credibility then I would have given them a chance in my teens. 

The next email is from ‘Pee Twitcher’. It looks like a lot of those contacting the Podcast are those who ‘lost their way’ around the release of Holidays In Eden. Charlie likes walking his dog and was in University in 1991. I was 8 in 1991, but that should not matter to any of you. My email does pop up and yes, I am also disappointed I’m not really called Carlos and lack the balls to genuinely change my name. Hey, I am also a shy man, but thanks for the kind words and to anyone who keeps showing up to read these posts. Also, apologies for that really badly written email – hearing it read word for word was yuck. It’s tricky finding more than one band that you can honestly say you truly love and want to spend time talking about and sharing that love for, and that you have a personal story with, while also being knowledgeable about their history and inner workings. Maybe just go completely leftfield and both plod through the works of Scatman John? I’m not a music merch fan either… one of my earliest G’n’R t-shirts is a really rare one that is the envy of new fans. It’s not signed or anything, and there’s probably thousands in existence, but you never see it on anyone. Thanks for the answers and another shout out!

Some more emails from fans from Sweden, fans who only joined after the Fish era, and people looking forward to Paul and Sanja’s thoughts on Brave. Before we get there the guys have a bonus episode on Marillion’s 10th Anniversary which I will be listening to but probably not commenting on. Roll on Brave. Thanks to those reading who have come here from the Podcast, and for any of my existing readers, why not hop over to Twitter and Podcast places and give BYAMPOD and Marillion a listen!

Revol

Revol: 3/Good 

(US Version)

The one song from The Holy Bible (aside from Faster) that always seems to get a run out during live performances – strange because the band, and James in particular, are always saying how much they hate it. If you absolutely must play something from The Holy Bible during live gigs, then there are plenty of others to choose from. Moaning aside, it is still a good song. Admittedly,  it’s one of my least favourite from the album but it still packs a punch, and does have that exquisite middle section which I believe to be one of the best things the band has ever written. Make of the lyrics what you will – a series of loose epithets or descriptions of political figures opposite sexual acts or deficiencies for the verses, followed by multi-lingual screams for the chorus. No-one writes songs like this, and no-one has the balls to make a single out of it. It almost feels like a light-hearted moment amidst the darkness of The Holy Bible and it certainly does break up the relentless gloom with a bout of much needed, questionable humour.

Misheard Lyrics: Missed a letter, oh, waken the boy!

2. Mr Stalin, buy sexually back/Mr Stalin, buy sexual a pack

3. Pushed chest, self love in his mirrors

4. Raging, very into group sex.

5. Get a job, sell myself self importance/Got a chop, sell a bit of his content

6. Yes sir, player, with his self importance/ Yeltsin playing with his own importance.

7. River! River!/Reaver! Reaver!

8: Life’s a cloud/Like a clown

9: Comfort comes (!)

10. Ross Ross!/Rush Rush!

11. Feel her feel her!/Feed her feed her!/ Fear fear!/ Fear Fuhrer!

12. Napoleon challenge wee hats

13. Jane Berlin (?) you see good in you

14. Trotsky honey won’t serenade the naked.

15. Shake her valley, your wrong target now.

16. American alimony alimony.

Actual Lyrics: Mr Lenin, awaken the boy

2. Mr Stalin, bi-sexual epoch

3. Kruschev, self love in his mirrors.

4. Brehnev, married into group sex

5. Gorbachev, celibate self importance

6. Yeltsin, failure is his own impotence. 

7: Revol! Revol!

8: Lebensraum

9: Kulturkampf.

10. Raus Raus!

11. Fila fila!

12. Napoleon childhood sweethearts

13. Chamberlain you see God in you

14. Trotsky honeymoon serenade the naked.

15. Che Guevara, you’re all target now.

16. Farrakhan alimony alimony. 

The Story Behind The Song: Does anybody know? ‘Revol’ is ‘Lover’ spelled backwards, and we know Richey had issues with ideas of love, relationships, sex – some of the lyrics are sexual in nature, others are political insults. The first verse lists 20th Century Russian leaders in order (skipping some) as if equating their rules to to their sexual or emotional maturity. Second verse it dances around Europe, South America, everywhere following a similar format. The chorus is chanting of German words used in Concentration Camps. The word ‘revol’… sounds a bit like revolt, or revolution. Yeah, I’m as clueless as everyone else.

Love On Safari

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In probably the final Lacey Chabert movie I’ll be talking about until next Christmas, we needed a departure from the cold weather. Christmas is festive and all, but there’s only so much snow and smiles one man can take while trapped inside during a pandemic and looking beyond the living room window and seeing only a grim and stricken wasteland of desiccated trees and muddy pastures. I needed some sun, damn it, and Lacey was going to give it to me. Luckily, she just so happened to have made a movie set (and shot on location) in the scorching African sun. Plus – giraffes!

We begin as we always do with these reviews – Lacey plays a successful 30 something woman in the big city – casual boyfriend, strong teeth, decent career – but there’s still something lacking. Out of the blue she receives the tragic news that her (I want to say Uncle) last remaining relative has passed away and that her presence as been requested in Africa to discuss the Will. Expecting some arbitrary ornament or antique trinket from the childhood holidays she spent in her uncle’s wildlife reserve in Africa, she takes the opportunity to take a break from the monotony of her daily life and get some sun. Meanwhile, the staff and locals of said Wilflife Reserve are in turmoil because of their loss, knowing that if somebody cannot stump up the funds to buy and look after the Reserve that an uncaring chain is going to swoop in and usurp the place, sucking out its soul and converting it into another upmarket hotel chain for snobby types. You see where this is going, right?

Lacey meets the staff, some of whom she remembers from childhood, others she might just feel a little under-camo-trouser-tingling for. She (but nobody else) is shocked to hear that her uncle has left the Reserve, the hotel, the animals, the land, in her name leaving her torn between selling to the only available buyer, or somehow giving up her life in the USA to tackle a way of living and business she has almost zero experience of. It’s a dilemma further complicated by her growing love for the place, her increasing affection for a particular staff member, and the sudden appearance of her boyfriend from back home. Giraffes!

It’s another sweet Chabert tale which isn’t going to offend or challenge anyone, and whose soul aim is to leave you feeling warm and snuggly. My wife didn’t think much of it and much preferred the more traditional Christmas fare, while I was more than happy for the change of scenery. If they had not filmed this on location, the film wouldn’t have the same impact. It’s a gorgeous location and a timely reminder to all of us to not screw up this little planet we find ourselves on. For a film of this type, it does an admirable enough job of throwing spanners into the works, but there’s never any real threat that everything isn’t going to turn out perfectly. Lacey is as watchable as ever, the surrounding cast are fine – it is getting a little tiresome watching Lacey fall in love with all of these different archetypal ideal men, but that’s probably why we only ever watch one or two of these vehicles each Christmas. It goes for that same charming gentle romance and humour that all these movies go for – if this were a British comedy, you know the lead male love interest would be somewhat more foppish, and you know that at some point Lacey would have to stumble backwards and fall into an elephant’s water trough. Thankfully she, and we, are spared such indignities. If you’re looking for something slightly different in look and location from Lacey’s standard festive movies, give it a shot.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Love On Safari!

Engage With Your Shadow

Engage With Your Shadow: 1/Crap

Another experiment and another failure. How exactly to a judge whether something like this is a success or a failure? No, I’m not getting into that, it’s shite. We can see what the band are trying to do here, but that doesn’t stop it from being a complete mess. There are not many great B-Sides from the Postcards era, but there aren’t many efforts as bad as this. Nicky basically recites (badly) a poem, throws in the odd bit of German, while a coughing industrial beat wafts along and Bradfield interrupts with sudden bursts of nonsensical guitar. On repeated listens, some of those guitar parts are pretty tasty, but as a whole? It’s as if the band heard Pulk/Push revolving doors by Radiohead and thought ‘now there’s a great idea for a song!’ Wire rants about something, but after about thirty seconds we’ve given up caring. Credit for giving it a full fisted go lads.

The Story Behind The Song: Nicky was probably pissed and decided to rant about how disconnected he is from the modern world. I bet he was wearing a beret. 

Ready For Drowning

Ready For Drowning: 4/Great

Probably my favourite song from This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, it seemed to takes years for fans in general and the band itself to catch up to the fact that this is a flawless song. For years after the release I would talk about how much I loved this song, while people I spoke to who owned the album couldn’t even remember it. During particular hyperbolic moments, I even list this as one of the best songs ever written, mentioning its perfect cyclical construction which ends like it begins, how it has a wonderfully defined beginning, middle, end, how it takes many facets of the band’s psyche and style and spills them, and how it’s melodies, guitars, and vocals are nigh on impossible to top. That whistle sound in the intro, followed by acoustics, followed by organ, followed by electric blast – perfection; the bizarre piano led verses, the story-telling lyrics unlike anything else the band has done, the build up to the chorus, the explosive tumbling guitar riff, and the chorus itself – perfection; the soundbite in the instrumental section – perfection; and the way the harmonies all swirl and come together before returning to the beginning for its end – it is in my mind easily one of the greatest songs ever written. It’s also completely heartbreaking. I’ve been lucky enough to see the band play it live a few times, now that they seem to realize what a gift it is.

Misheard Lyrics: Said he hurt it in a taxi/Seetee headed in a taxi

2: Mustafa had it in muesli

3: I’d go to pat a gnome, yeah

Actual Lyrics: Said he’d heard it in a taxi

2: Must have had him in my mercy

3: I’d go to Patagonia

The Story Behind The Song (I’m going to have to go back and update all my Manics posts with this, aren’t I?): A village in Wales (Capel Celyn) was completely flooded on command by the Government, to provide water for Liverpool (in England). Thanks to a sneaky bill via an Act Of Parliament, which overrode all Welsh legality and authority, the bill was passed and the village was flooded. All buildings, homes, and farms were destroyed, ignoring the hundreds of years of history and the pleas of the inhabitants. 

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Holidays In Eden (Side A)!

Image result for holidays in eden

Greetings, Glancers! Last time I was introduced to the H era, and an album which saw the band aiming to, and succeeding in moving on from their time with Fish in a confident, almost jubilant manner. That transitory step now complete, the band could continue without their past hanging over them and cement their new sound and approach. As always, I know nothing about this album – I don’t know if it is merely another collection of songs, if there are recurring themes, if it takes the band deeper into commercial territory or further into prog. I don’t know if it is a Concept Album, I don’t know if it is heavy, light, dark, if the songs are short, long, or a mixture of all of these. Mayhap the album art will offer some spoilers (or sneakers as I have come to call them with my kids).

At first glance, it’s rather a bland cover. The dark blue and black colouring catches the eye and I’m momentarily drawn to the various creatures which seem to be darting towards the moon. It reminds me of those pictures hand made by blowing or pushing sand around. There’s a tree in the centre, and a bland circular logo/album title spinning around the moon. Animals… Eden… is there something there? It’s a neatly presented cover, but I don’t have much to say about it. Is there any wider context? I’m sure the podcast will shed more light.

I see the album garnered three singles – none of which I recognise. There are ten songs and a running time of under 50 minutes – so a roughly average 4-5 minute running time per song. I’m assuming there aren’t as many epics on this one. The only other thing I would mention is that it was released in 1991. Probably too early to be influenced by Grunge – I don’t know if Marillion got caught up by the popularity of Grunge and consciously or otherwise changed their sound to accommodate for the Seattle bands and scene, but that is certainly something which did happen to a lot of existing Metal and Rock bands. They either tried to change their sound and style, or stayed entrenched in the 80s and subsequently found themselves relics. Prog tends to be on the periphery or complete outside of these things, yet it doesn’t exist within a vacuum. Maybe this will be answered on the next album, but I suspect Holidays In Eden is ‘simply’ Marillion continuing along and doing their own thing.

Splintering Heart continues the band’s trend of setting up their stalls with a longer, atmospheric opener. The plodding intro made me think of an army of frogs hippidy hopping out a swamp and down some dusk road towards the city’s bright lights. What an odd thing to think of but it’s there every time I play the song – going away once the singing begins. While it relies heavily on atmosphere, there is a heavy use of dynamics and it doesn’t scrimp on the melody. Songs which set themselves up to textures or soundscapes rather than traditional often (or purposefully) lose melody and can leave me feeling detached. Splintering Heart does the quiet part/loud part thing well, but doesn’t place it around the confines of the verse chorus verse structure – it more accurately builds its atmosphere and explodes when the tension and story calls for it – the first loud break only coming after the build up of lyrics about heartbreak and the agonized shout of ‘and it tears her apart, but not as much as this’. this first explosion of sound begins with a note combination I have a particular fondness – the little Bb-A-F lick – extending out into a wider reminder that the band can shred and kick with the best of them. H gets to show off his pipes once more, smoothly reaching highs and adding a little bit of gristle when called for.

As I mentioned in the previous album, many of the lyrics seemed to be written about a ‘she’ or a ‘her’ and Splintering Heart seems to follow in this respect in places. With the few lyrics I picked up on, and with the title in mind, it seems like a reasonable guess that this is a love song, or more closely the pain of love. That build up of lyrics in the beginning covers the unending circular nature of pain, yearning, and potentially grief – stabbing and twisting and familiar to most of us. There is the potential that the yearning is actually for a drug, with the reference to ‘the cost of the high’, but there isn’t anything else specific in the song so this feels more like a rhyme to suit the following line. The later talk of fragments and ‘glass hard’ made me think of the old Ice Queen story where the kid’s heart is frozen by a shard of ice, turning him cold to his friend. It’s another matter of fact lyric which doesn’t is hardly the height of poetry, but it is lent potency by the often hissing and earnest delivery of the vocal.

The first things I noted for Cover My Eyes were a couple of comparisons I’ve brought up before – it sounds like Run Like Hell and it sounds like U2. Both comparisons are due to the guitar style and beat of the intro, but that’s as far as the comparison goes. It’s a lovely, sweet song, and it pulls off a new trick – a melodic trick that I can’t recall the band pulling off or attempting before – replacing lyrics in a chorus by ‘oohs and aahs’. That’s something I frequently did in my own songs – mainly because I couldn’t be arsed trying to fit lyrics to a vocal melody I already loved, but at a wanky level I felt that the melody was more pure without shoving semantics on top of it and attempting to mouth harsher syllables. Enough!

I can only assume this song was a single – a quick look back to Wikipedia confirms this was the lead single and only reached 34 in the UK. In some ways that surprises me, but not in others. It’s an incredibly catchy song and normally I would see no reason why it shouldn’t have been a hit. Sure Smells Like Teen Spirit wasn’t released for another few months after this, but you knew music was already splitting off from this sort of sound early in the year, with the increase in popularity of UK dance acts, American Rap and R’n’B, and boy bands popping up everywhere. I’m curious to see what the Top 40 was in May 1991… Cher, Blur, Chesney Hawkes, Sit Down by James, Madonna, Roxette… yeah. I was expecting this song to be more of an antithesis to what was in the charts, but this song seems like it would have slotted neatly alongside most of those, at least more the casual listener. I don’t remember it at all but I think it’s one I would have enjoyed had I heard it back then. It’s their most obvious pop rock song since Kayleigh, and if I’m pushed I may prefer it to their prior hit. Maybe it’s just the newness of it, but I’m going to side more with the sheer goodness, lightness, and loveliness of it. It goes on the Marillion playlist regardless.

Reading the lyrics I realise I got the whole non-lyric in the chorus thing completely wrong – it looks like he is actually singing ‘pain and heaven’, but even knowing this it’s quite difficult to pick it up with my ears. It becomes more obvious when I sing it myself – the softness of the word sounds mean it’s quite easy to cloak the lyrics. It’s another love song about being blinded by beauty. It’s mostly done in a positive way – blinded as in wowed rather than blinded as in not seeing the bad, negative, or dangerous attributes. The word ‘dangerous’ is repeated throughout, so maybe there is a hint of caution which, along with the comparisons of ‘she’s like the girl’, suggest that there’s a reason this person is unobtainable or a wish fulfilling fantasy instead of a reality. Maybe it’s not so positive. 

The Party is a nasty cautionary tale of awakening. I can’t admit to ever been a teenage girl, but I was once a teenage boy with plenty of teenage girl friends. I get that the song is supposed to evoke memories of those first house party experiences, the wonder and excitement and nerves but there’s something about the delivery of the vocals, the music, and the fragments of lyrics I’ve picked up which lend it a darker tone of warning. Once I read the lyrics it should become clear if I’m feeling this all wrong. Looking back at my own experiences, I don’t recall much excitement or apprehension. I suppose because I already knew most of the people going to these parties or because we’d hung out at houses and outside of school in smaller groups beforehand. And because I’m a bloke. Honestly, house parties weren’t much of a thing in my teenage years. There were a few 17th or 18th birthdays which we had in houses, but in most cases these were just where we met before heading out for the usual pub/club crawl. My 18th was a complete write-off – afternoon pub antics to watch the Grand National, back to house for prep and beers, then food, then out to another few pubs where one of my pints was helpfully spiked with a shot of Absinthe. By the time we got to the actual club (the infamous, awfully named ‘Boom Boom Room’), I had to propped up by friends to gain entry, only to vomit all over the VIP section’s leather sofas. But that was fine because we just pulled a table over to hide the vomit on the floor and moved to another sofa. Good times. By the time I got to University I was well-versed in the ways of house parties.

The song’s main character is positioned as being more excited, more naive, less experienced. If you notice I haven’t said much about the music. That’s because I found it quite bleh. Outside of some great drumming towards the end, the music didn’t land for me. There’s something off-putting about it, it’s slow and not the sort of dirge I tend to enjoy. The vocals were a little on the yelping side too, which didn’t help pull me in. The lyrics don’t shed too much more light on whether there is a sinister nature to proceedings, though there is the hint that girl loses her virginity at this party and this isn’t necessarily treated like a good thing. Or a bad thing. It’s the mood of the music which makes it all feel so nasty and finger-wagging. 

Luckily No One Can is utterly gorgeous. It took me several attempts to type anything about this because I tend to listen and write at the same time but with this song I just end up listening to and enjoying it instead. Not because the music is particularly special but because it’s so sweet and evocative. I think about my wife. I thought about some of the people I unreservedly loved when I was younger and I hurt and I smile. Make no mistake, it’s pure cheese, but it’s so sincere and relatable. Maybe it’s because it’s the first time I’m hearing this, or maybe it’s because it gives me nostalgia for a lot of the pop power ballads I enjoyed as a child, but there’s something sweet and comfortable which puts me in a warm and snuggly introspective mood.

Like I mentioned on Cover My Eyes, this is such an obvious single – the only thing missing is the success it deserved. It looks like it did crack the Top 40, but the fact that I don’t remember it when I watched TOTP every week back then tells me that its success wasn’t lasting or wide-spread. Which is a shame given a lot of the other wank which was selling by the womb-full. I do have a soft spot for cheese – good cheese – and I do have a soft spot for nostalgia and finding these hidden hits, so possibly the song will fall in my estimation in the future and I’ll end up enjoying it on a purely pop level, but for now it’s a clear playlist maker. As you would imagine, it’s another love song – this time as pure and streamlined as you would wish for, with H presumably speaking from a place of truth when he found someone who made him realise that the freedom and nights out with the boys and crowds and success and guardedness was just a grey dark shadow.

Overall, that was another nice departure – two longer songs, one of which worked for me, one of which didn’t – and two rather lovely wonderful singles. Lets see what the podcast has to say about Side A. Paul begins by revealing that it was a controversial album. I can see long term fans who wanted their idea of Marillion to continue, and that’s fair enough. To bring my own comparisons in – because many bands have been accused of selling out or changing their sound too far beyond what made them successful in the first place – you have your obvious pop culture picks like Bob Dylan going electric or Metallica simply making a music video, but in my own case if a band I like keeps making music even while they change their sound, I’ll keep buying it. The Manics went from punk to hair metal cock rock to stadium US anthems to whatever the hell The Holy Bible is and then into A Design For Life where I first became a fan. Joni Mitchell went from folk acoustic ballads and pop rock hits into jazz fusion and concepts – though to be fair I tend to very rarely if ever listen to much of her work after Blue. Radiohead went from U2 clone to their own thing (becoming bigger), then fucked off into Thom Yorke’s bemused brain. If there’s any fact related to Marillion it should be that fans should have known the band changes their sound between each album and that maybe they had been trending in this direction. Easy to say for me as someone blasting through the albums in a matter of weeks than the fans who had been listening for years by the point Holidays In Eden came out. 

But yes, so far it is a pop oriented album with not a touch of the wider concept or lofty levels of prog. There’s a 15 minute long three song suite on the second half? At this point I’ve only listened to the first two tracks on Side B. It’s interesting that the band had some turmoil over whether or not to go the commercial route, but when you have one hit the money man want another and another. That’s why the Manics’ Know Your Enemy is so funny because they made that off the back of million selling singles and albums, stadium tours, then decided to say fuck it and make a bunch of spiky, verbose punk songs and the random slice of Disco and experimental nonsense. Enough!

cover art for Script For A Jester's Tear - Side 1

I assume Marillion as they are today, are mostly free from record company pressure. Plus with the freedom of making a song in a vacuum and slapping it on to Youtube yourself, you can cut out as many middle men as you want. It’s a two edge sword – you need a fanbase for anyone to listen to your stuff (and give you the all important moneys) but the bigger you are the greater the red tape. If you’re a nobody there’s no hype or red tape, but nobody knows you. The guys talk about the artwork – it’s very blue. Paul doesn’t like it. Sanja thinks it’s okay. Paul gives some more info on how the band and fans felt about the album – there was an awareness that they were chasing a pop sound (and answers my earlier question about having to bow to pressure now) and that this in itself was a wider experiment for the band to undertake. Paul liked the album when it was released, that’s where I am with it now.

Sanja isn’t sure about Splintering Heart – bits she likes, bit she doesn’t. It is another longer one, it is slowish… maybe it’s a little close to those earlier dirges she didn’t enjoy. Paul rates it higher and doesn’t love it, then states there is a song later he despises. Is it The Party? I always hear these stories about songwriters hitting an epiphany and grabbing a piece of paper to write down this ground-breaking poetry – then you read the lyrics and it’s generic shite rhyming love with dove. That’s not the case here, but again it’s hardly the Word of God or some mystical Muse or even a Biffo. Lyrics take time. Sure you can pull some one-liners from thin air and find a place for them later, but a whole song from nothing always seems like a stretch. I don’t recall Norman Wisdom doing a Brucie.

Cover My Eyes apparently spurted forth from an earlier song. Fair enough, it happens. They acknowledge it as a fun song. I thought they’d be a little more keen on it, but then again it is just a fun pop song. I love it, but as I’ve said I’m new to it so let me have it. Sanja doesn’t like The Party at all. Well yes, same. Paul liked it at release as it sounded more like the Marillion of old – a story, and atmosphere, aiming for something bigger or more complex. His opinion has waned over time – mainly thanks to much better subsequent songs – that it’s just a lower tier Marillion prog song. Mushrooms… I saw Al Pacino in the trees once, though I couldn’t quite turn that into a song. This sneaky buying booze business when you’re sixteen – always a bit of a strange one for me. Maybe it’s a Northern Ireland thing but getting your hands on booze – especially cider which was 50p for a litre or two – was not a problem at all for me. Being an odd sort, I preferred West Coast Cooler and Malibu which was admittedly more pricey. And I still looked 12 when I was 20. So there is a song worse than this on the album.. great. Is it the title track? I’ve heard it and I’m so far not a fan.

They both love No One Can – of course! In fact, I’m away to listen to it again. Ah ha! Grunge talk! I really only mentioned that in my intro paragraph because I was a huge grunge kid, and if I’m honest never really grew out of it. Of course I was a child then and my musical horizons have greatly expanded (Kurt died on my 11th Birthday, lest we forget), but Grunge cemented everything I loved about music then, and those formative times are never lost. At least for a romantic like me. Enough!

Not a lot more to say about the song, though Sanja does highlight the lyrics. It’s all lovely. What is it about writing while standing in fields? Hey hey, don’t be lumping Iron Maiden in with Def Leppard. I’m a massive Iron Maiden fan! And look at the cheese I’ve just foamed all over. They’re covering the title track now, which messed up my post sequencing so you’ll have to wait until my post about Side B to hear my thoughts on it (basically another Who/Police inspired song which is this album’s Incommunicado, and all seems like a weird bouncy piece of nonsense). They discuss the meaning behind the song – again wait until Side B for my thoughts – but this all makes sense. Ha ha, this is the song Paul despises. I’ll give some extra insight from my side – this is the song I found myself skipping through in my listens. That’s the first time I’ve done this with a Marillion song so far. I listen to each song many times, pause and rewind when writing. This one I made through fully about four times, then couldn’t finish the whole thing. I wouldn’t say I despise it, but I have zero desire to hear it again.

And with that, it’s time to go. Four songs and I still managed to spill out a fuckillion words. Listen to the thing yourself, and the other thing, and slap any comments below!

Family For Christmas

25 Days of Christmas Movies: #14 — Family for Christmas – The Main Damie

Another day, another Lacey Christmas movie. Family For Christmas surprised me. It takes a turn I wasn’t expecting, and it is directed by Samantha Carter herself (Amanda Tapping). It’s still very much in that Hallmark space, but there’s a little touch of extra quality, and enough silly humour I hadn’t planned for that I found myself laughing along.

As is par for the course, Lacey Chabert stars as a successful career woman who faces a challenge at Christmas. When the film opens, she is a young woman just setting off to the big city and leaving her boyfriend behind, promising she’ll think of him every day and that their relationship is built to last. Flashforward ten years and all thoughts of her boyfriend and suburban upbringing are gone. She is now a hard-hitting, award winning reporter, entirely career driven and not particularly keen on Christmas, kids, romance, or family. She’s not a Scrooge or a Grinch – she simply has her own goals and priorities. At her office Christmas party, she is briefly reminded of her old boyfriend and wonders what he’s up to. Enter a strange and mystic-speak Santa who offers some cryptic pleasantries for her to ponder on. The next morning, she wakes up only to find herself in a new bed, in a new house, with a ring on her finger, a husband, two kids, and a list of soccer mom tasks to complete. WTF?

There is an odd tradition of Christmas movies and stories flipping into other dimensions and possible timelines from A Christmas Carol to It’s A Wonderful Life to Groundhog Day. We follow in this vein, as Lacey finds herself trying to figure out why she is now married to her old flame, why her old job has been taken by one of her subordinates, why none of her colleagues recognize her, and how to figure out a housewife’s schedule. There’s a lot of gentle, mocking humour as Lacey struggles to get her bearings, make small talk with neighbours she is supposed to be besties with, and love children she didn’t know existed the day before. This being Hallmark, it’s not done in a cynical matter (you can choose to read between the lines about what the story may or may not be saying about a woman’s place in the world) and you know it’s all going to work out in the end. For Lacey’s character though, just as she is getting comfortable with her new life and understanding what love and family can be like, she is switched back to her original life with her husband and kids and sweet picket fence life potentially wiped from existence. She has a choice to make.

If I have any real issue with the film it’s that it doesn’t really give valid reasons along the way for the choices Lacey’s character makes. There’s no valid reason given for Hannah suddenly forgetting this person she supposedly loves, though I concede this was on purpose. There’s no valid reason given for why she would, after ten years of working, realize after a couple of days that she wants a family – beyond the simple interactions with a loving husband and cute kids. I got the impression that, if something else came along she might just as easily abandon her family and hop on the new bandwagon. That’s nowhere near the intent of the film, but I found some of the inspiration and thought behind character choices unconvincing. These aren’t films to usually discuss script or directing, but it’s easily a step above the normal Hallmark fare in terms of story, and Amanda Tapping does a confident, non-flashy job.

It’s another sweet Hallmark movie, with the caveat being that you may actually remember this one. I expect plenty of people will be put off by the apparent message that a woman’s place is at home – not that I fully buy that this is what the film is saying – but for a simple family oriented Christmas movie you could do much much worse.

Pride, Prejudice, And Mistletoe

Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe: Charming and Full of Heart! | The Silver Petticoat Review

One thing my wife and I do every year at Christmas, is watch Lacey Chabert Christmas movies. I was a big Party Of Five fan growing up, and she was too, so we share a kind of Lacey appreciation which comes in handy at this time of the year. See, while I want to watch Die Hard or Rare Exports, she wants to watch some romantic muck I can’t abide. With me being a huge movie nerd and her…. not… we just fell into this tradition as something we can both agree upon to watch. We both know the movies are never going to be good but we can at least hope they are festive and happy and snowy and get us into the Christmas spirit. In 2020, we watched a few of these which we hadn’t seen before, starting with Pride, Prejudice, And Mistletoe.

The thing to be aware of with these movies – they’re all TV movies and are more often than not Hallmark productions. You know exactly what you’re going to get – rich white Americans with great careers, families, and friends suffer some sort of minor mishap at the end of the year, which ends up with them finding romance and living happily ever after. They’re not Cinema, so be prepared for simple plot, simple characters, not the greatest performances, and little interest given to music, direction, cinematography etc. I think Lacey is a fantastic actress who should be appearing in more mainstream and more significant works, but I completely respect the groove she is in – she’s found what she loves doing. That said, I wouldn’t be watching any of these movies if she wasn’t in them.

Lacey stars as Darcy (get it) Fitzwilliam, a rich white American with a great job, who has so far been unlucky in love. She has recently ended a relationship with a seemingly ideal man who works for her father’s Company – even though they fit from the outside, there’s that spark missing for Darcy. She heads home for Christmas to help her family who are running some sort of fundraiser for a local charity by selling fashionable Christmas trees (?), and they’re running the event out of their house (?). The only event I run from my house at Christmas is putting boards over the doors and windows so that no-one wants to visit.

Turns out the bloke who is catering the event is an old school rival of Darcy’s – a man called Luke Bennett (get it). They aren’t happy about having to work together at first, but it turns out they have more in common than they thought, and before long we’re treated to a steamy 14 minute nude scene which heavily features tinsel wrapping around things they weren’t supposed to. Possibly that last piece was in my imagination, but I’m almost positive it happens soon after the credits roll. In any case, you know they’re going to fall in love despite the measly obstacles in their way.

It’s not particularly festive even though it’s set at Christmas, but seeing the big houses and trees and scarves and snow and decorations and lights still puts a morsel of cheer in my heart. It’s not any better or worse than any of these types of movies and you probably won’t remember if you’ve seen it or not by the time Christmas rolls around again. There’s little or nothing to do with Jane Austin, most of the performances you won’t care about, but at least there is time spent on Luke as an individual with aspirations and a history when in most cases the love interest doesn’t get much consideration beyond looking pretty.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve seen this one!