Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1999!

Notting Hill review – a year-round treat, not just for Valentine's | Notting Hill | The Guardian

1999 was a pretty favourable year for me, as you’ll have seen in my Favourites post. There were plenty of movies I enjoyed outside of those Twenty movies, so it was tricky finding enough I didn’t like for this post.

Angela’s Ashes

There’s no valid reason for me having this on the list – I just don’t like Irish films for the most part. Maybe because it’s too close to home, because they’re grimy and filthy, and offer me no escapism that they become nauseating. It’s well made, well acted, and disturbing. But it’s on the list.

The Haunting

Man, this just takes everything which makes the original movie (and haunted house movies in general) interesting, and throws it out the window in favour of dodgy effects, tepid characters, the atmosphere of a vet’s waiting room, and endless aimless dialogue. There are a few unintentionally funny moments here and there but not enough to make it worth anyone’s time.

In Dreams

I was looking forward to this, being a fan of Neil Jordan’s work (excluding some of his Irish stuff) but I generally don’t care for Annette Bening or Aidan Quinn. Having crafted some of the more interesting horror movies in recent decades, this should have worked, but once we get into so called twisting psychological territory, things fall apart quickly with the same old tired tropes and obvious twists signposted early on – plus the whole thing has a drab visual design.

Lake Placid

This is another movie I had looked forward to, hearing it compared favourably to Jaws and Tremors. Both comparisons are insulting with Lake Placid being more similar to Jaws 3 or, well, Tremors 3. The camp humour is risible, the script clueless, and it fails to either entertain or scare or engage in any manner.

Notting Hill

Another year, another dastardly British ‘comedy’. If it’s not a shitty musical, it’s one of these. It reeks of Richard Curtis – smarmy faux slapstick comedy, toff scum, English ideals and character types who don’t actually exist. The annoying thing is that I actually like the central idea – a Hollywood superstar just randomly stumbling upon some nobody’s life. I could do without the falling in love part, and Hugh Grant will never be convincing as anybody other than Hugh Grant. With that idea alone, an overhauled script, new cast, new director, you might have an enjoyable movie.

Runaway Bride

Sorry, Julia Roberts, I think you’re a very good actress – you just have an annoying habit of picking shitty material. Master of the shitty Romantic Comedy, Gary Marshall, created yet another inexplicable hit – did he ever make a good movie though? There’s nothing you need to see here.

Stigmata

Yet another film I was pre-disposed to like – horror, religious iconography, Patricia Arquette, and a Natalie Imbruglia song on the soundtrack to top it off. Sadly, it’s just not very good. Not interesting, not scary… I’m not sure what it was trying to be.

Let us know in the comments what your least favourite movies of 1999 are!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Misplaced Childhood – Side A!

Marillion - Misplaced Childhood (1985, Gatefold, Vinyl) | Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! Today I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Side A of Misplaced Childhood, Marillion’s third studio album, and according to what Paul has told us on previous episodes, an album which was something of a breakthrough. I always begin my exploration into these new albums by grabbing the checklist from Wikipedia, and trying to avoid reading anything which could taint my opinions – like any considerate porn star, I like going in clean. What I could not avoid reading, however, was that there was a Live album released one year before this – I’ll be skipping that for now – and that Misplaced Childhood hit Platinum. It contains the singles Kayleigh – which I have heard – and Lavender, which I have not. At least not that I’m aware of. Critics seemed to like it to, with it being named in Yearly Best Ofs, and even as one of the greatest Concept albums of all time. So this is a proper, full blown Concept album then? Cool. Can I listen to the songs easily on their own merits, or do they drift into each other and will therefore sound weird individually?

Before we begin, I take a look at the album artwork. There’s that bird again – is it like Marillion’s version of Iron Maiden’s Eddie? There’s a shoeless little drummer boy who looks like he has been dressed by Pete Doherty; he’s standing in a room with a flower growing out of the ground and a mural of skies, clouds, and rainbows behind him. Has someone gobbled part of a Cucumber and spat its scraps on the ground? Or is it just another green thing? I don’t get much from this artwork aside from the feeling that the dimensions are off. The boy’s face doesn’t give much away either. It’s fine, not particularly striking, but I’m an art pleb. While Googling previous album covers, I did see that the artwork extends beyond the front cover into a wraparound – that hasn’t happened for a few decades – but I’m not going to delve the back cover as I haven’t got all day.

Pseudo Silk Komono opens the album with an air of ominous threat, the synth, guitar, and vocals creeping along with a noticeable lack of percussion. It’s a great opener and one which presumably sets the tone for the album – bearing in mind I haven’t listened to the rest of the album while typing this. As anticipated, it does end abruptly because it transitions directly into the next track without a pause. It’s a short song and when we consider the abrupt ending, it’s not the sort of song to just have as part of a favourite tracks playlist or shuffle. That’s the thing about Concept albums – they were devised and designed to be listened to in a single sitting, and while every song may not bleed into the next, many of them do. What I look for in a Concept album, over and above what I look for in a typical album or song – melody, emotion, songwriting, technical skill – is coherence. You’re probably not going to find a Concept album which features a different genre for every song or  sees subject matter and theme flipping about; you should expect songs which are relatable to one another to the extent that lyrics, theme, melody, and tone may be repeated. If we use The Wall as a prime example, the whole album literally wraps around upon itself so that the final seconds of the last song become the first moments of the first. That’s being a little excessive with the format, but there should be enough obvious comparisons that you know each song is part of the same whole, like non-identical twins or a bowl of different flavoured Pringles.

Sometimes with songs like this – I wish they were a little more; longer, complete, and without needing to be part of something greater. This song fits the sentiment – I enjoyed the vibe and the melody quite a lot, but I know it only makes so much sense on its own – I know that I need to listen to the next song to get the full impact. Again, that’s the dual edged sword of the Concept album. Maybe if the band plays the song live they extend the outro and leave it as its own thing without needing the next song to be played, though I suspect they connect the two songs together, or possibly play the entire album from start to finish in one go. When I saw Roger Waters at Glastonbury, he was able to take songs and sequences from a variety of Pink Floyd albums and mix those somewhat with his solo material, though in most cases the sequences selected did end similarly to how they do on the original releases.

I’m in two minds as to whether I should wait until the end of the album before looking at the lyrics, as I can only assume there’s some sort of plot at play. But that would make for a boring post so I’ll go one by one. It’s maybe the first time we don’t have a thousand words to wade through – I did pick up on ‘Misplaced Childhood’ being sung – but beyond that, the lyrics themselves didn’t offer me much in the way of meaning. He’s juxtaposing images of innocence and childhood with those of washed out adulthood, and there’s the sense of dreaming of escape and retreat back to better, easier times. It’s the introduction to a concept album, so I’m sure the lyrics of the individual songs will mean more when read along side the others. Good song.

Kayleigh is pure 80s to me. It’s one of those songs which manages to fill me with nostalgia and memories of 80s movies, music, and my own childhood. It’s also just a flat out groovy rock song. Those keyboards add to and cement an atmosphere which the jangling guitars round out. Up to this point, it’s one of their most accessible songs – the lyrics flow easily and it has a straightforward traditional structure; it’s easy to see why it was a hit. I love that simple chord progression in the verse and how the vocal melody effortlessly fits. The chorus I’m not as enamoured by – I do appreciate how the chord structure is melodically slightly inverted yet follows the same pattern, and it does lead in to an exquizz guitar solo before transitioning seamlessly back to the verse.

I have not yet listened to the complete album yet, but I get the sense that by the end I’ll be typing that old cliché of the band catching lightning in a bottle. As I don’t have much to say about Kayleigh I’ll apply that well worn phrase here instead. This song feels like the work the band had done to this point, all of the effort and song writing and experimenting and musicianship and seeking for a hit, just came together at the right time. All of those bizarre unspoken and unseen attributes and alignments which can conspire for or against an artist seem to have been consolidated and captured with this song. Sometimes for a band it takes only one hit to launch their careers in a wider sense, and sometimes this only comes after years of attempts, misfires, or underheard greats. For my money, or at least for my preferences, the best and most interesting (and often longest lasting) acts don’t strike oil with their first release. It takes some years of playing, touring, struggling, dealing with dismissals from fans and critics and the media while still building a reputation, then boom – lightning – success. Lets take a few of my usual suspects; Alice Cooper – a couple of non-eventful releases under the tutelage of Frank Zappa before condensing the weirdness into a hit; I’m Eighteen kicking off a sensational run in the 70s. Iron Maiden – years of touring, two average selling albums, before switching out their singers and approach and hitting the eternal big time with The Number Of The Beast. Manic Street Preachers? Self released demos and EPs and self hype before being signed to a huge label only to sell average numbers of a host of singles and three albums before losing their lead lyricist (the as yet unsolved mystery of Richey Edwards), then completely shifting their sound while retaining their sensibilities, the result being A Design For Life, Everything Must Go, millions of sales and all of the rest.

While there are just as many, if not many many more examples of artists who do ‘get it right’ from day one, those tend to not be the bands I find myself enjoying long term. It’s always more interesting to me when you can see, even with hindsight, the steps artists were putting in place which led to their eventual breakthrough. Kayleigh and Misplaced Childhood appears to be another example of this. But is the song just another love song? It sounds like one, but Fish being Fish, there’s likely more to it. Before reading the lyrics it’s obvious there is a lot of looking back, a lot of nostalgia – the repeating ‘Do You Remember’ followed by memories, along with a list of regrets. Looking more closely at the words, each of the first lines has a progression from childhood to adolescence to eventually the hope of marriage. Unlike most of the songs till this point, the writing is universal – we can all understand the words and the sentiment and those images and feelings. He could be writing about me – I’m sure many of you have thought, while being pulled back to an old and broken relationship. I can’t say that I remember loving on the floor in Belsize park, but I do remember friends hallucinating that the safety mats in ‘the safe room’ situated near where one of those friends lived and worked, were nudey ladies. That was particularly horrific.

Obviously the song is personal to Fish – the allusions to writing ‘that’ love song and other images which, while universal, seem to be very specific. I think a previous podcast mentioned Kayleigh being a portmanteau of one of Fish’s exes? That’s the trick to releasing a successful love song – we all have to understand it, we all have to have been there, and yet the music has to be good. It needs to be catchy. This ticks all the boxes, and so we can move on.

Lavender begins as Kayleigh ends, with a solitary piano clinking a melancholy tune. Rather than the third song on an album, it sounds like a natural ending. It sounds like an album closer, and it also struck me that I may have heard it before. I don’t believe I have, but there is something familiar about it – must be all the dilly dilly nonsense which I’m certain I’ve heard in other songs. This was a single, right? I think I read that on Wikipedia, but it doesn’t fit the criteria of being a single – it lacks the simple verse chorus verse structure. It’s also very short, so possibly the single version is different from the album – expanded and turned into a more standalone whole? I mentioned earlier how shorter songs on Concept albums may not feel fully fleshed out and able to stand on their own beyond the confines of the album – to me this is exactly what Lavender feels like. That’s not a negative – I like the song but it does strike me as part of something bigger – almost like it is more accurately the ending of Kayleigh rather than its own thing.

It has that big finish feel, like the end of a Queen concert or the ending credits of a movie. Not that the song is huge – it does start out quietly, pastoral, but it builds to the big guitar solo and percussion climax. Looking at the lyrics… there seems to be a second half of the song which I’m guessing is what appears in the single version, starting from ‘blue angel, the sky was Bible black in Lyon’. Elsewhere the lyrics are mostly simple, again recalling childhood, memory, love, innocence. There’s a single verse, where a memory is triggered taking Fish back to another time and place, followed by the ‘dilly dilly’ section. This very much fits with the tropes of a concept album – the lack of hit single structure, the alignment with the grander themes of the album, and the lyrics acting more like a Scene within an Act instead of being a standalone. Three songs in, and they’re all good.

Bitter Suite takes things to full blown Prog/Concept levels – a song in four deliberate parts. When I saw the name I was triggered back to my own childhood and trying to start my first band. Of course this was when I was in P6/P7 and had no clue, but one of my favourite names at the time for the band was ‘Bitter Type’. Just sounded cool. I got the name from a Top Trumps deck about Concept Cars – Bitter Type being the name of one of the cars. There was also a car called a ‘Zender Vision’, which looked exactly like the car of my rock star dreams, but the name didn’t fit the sound we were going for. Or something.

Something amusing happened during one of my listens of the opening instrumental section of Bitter Suite– a voice began speaking over the music and I was scrambling back in my memory trying to recall if this had happened in previous listens. I knew there was a spoken part, a Scottish voice reciting some guff about spiders, but this was different. It wasn’t Scottish for a start, and it was right at the start of the track. After searching around the room I realised I had multiple tabs open on my laptop and that for some reason my Netflix tab had decided to play a trailer for some movie called His House just after I hit play on the song. Oddly enough, the voiceover on the trailer fit the rhythm and tone of the music almost perfectly. That’s one of those odd scenarios which ends up on the bonus feature of an album or movie special edition.

Is the Scottish voice Fish? Or more TTS software? I’m not sure at which point the different parts of the section being or end, but what I am sure is that the song as a whole managed to piss me off several times. Not because it’s bad – it’s not – but because it repeatedly uses several words and phrases several times, words I cannot stand. You know Trichophobia – that aversion to irregular patterns, usually holes or dots? Alternatively, have you seen the movie Pontypool – a horror movie about people trapped in a radio station due to an outbreak of WORDS? It’s about a virus which seems to spread when people say or hear certain words… this song and the next song unnerved me somewhat because they used certain words which make my skin crawl. I have no explanation for why I don’t like these words, but I honestly don’t like hearing them spoken out loud – words including ‘lager’ (which is unpronounceable in my accent) and ‘wide boys’. I despise that phrase, I’m laughing as I type this, but that genuinely sickens me.

Throw in spoken words, throw in a French part which I originally heard as ‘John Todd don’t care’ – John Todd being an old associate of my father – the whole thing was making my head wonky and I had to put it away. After listening to this once and having been suitably unnerved, I went straight to the next song only to encounter the aforementioned wide boys. I had to then go back and listen to the opening three songs again then not return to the album for a couple of days until I was ready to listen again. Knowing what was coming I was able to steal myself somewhat for hearing the distasteful stuff and then appreciate everything else. Still, I thought I would call all of that out to show what an odd person I must be and to let you know that I probably won’t listen to the two tracks more beyond this post. Which is a shame because the rest of the album has been great.

Having listened to the two tracks back to back, what I will say is that the album takes a more sinister turn – beyond my own weird brain stuff – and steps away from the comfortable forays into nostalgia and sadness. Now it sounds focused, obsessed, and paranoid – trapped in the memory and unable to move on. The synth keys are longer and feel more threatening, the lyrics angrier, the music as a whole is more disjointed, with little bass blips trickling in and out, echo samples, dissonant hits on the cymbals, and guitar bends cutting into jagged three second solos. Of course we do get a call back to dilly dilly – the missing lyrics from the Google search result I retrieved for Lavender appear here, but they are more mournful. This isn’t merely looking back with bittersweet fondness and regret momentarily, this is a genuine wish to hop in a DeLorean and go back to potentially fuck things up even more.

Musically for Bitter Suite, the standout section for me is Misplaced Rendevouz. It is suitably downbeat yet retains a fragile beauty which then transitions into the Windswept piece. It further transitions into Heart Of Lothian where it all goes a bit wrong with the chanting of ‘wide boys’ over and over again, at which point my lunch comes back up and ends up on my lap. I was quite psyched at the shift from minor to major in the music and the more buoyant tone, right up until ‘wide boys’ started and sucked all of the fun out of it for me. Putting, or trying to put that phrase to the side, it’s another track which feels like an ending credit scene. It does close this side of the album, but not before the music pulls back somewhat to become more like a lullaby or the comedown after a climax.

I didn’t find too much distinction between these last two tracks in my limited listens of them. They could have been merged into one large track of six pieces just as easily as they way they do appear and although there are various transitions between each piece, they do tick that coherent cohesive box I mentioned at the top of the post. The differing pieces are not so wildly divergent from one another and if I had been listening to the physical album rather than on Youtube (with its Ad breaks) I may not have noticed when one part or song ended and the next began.

I refer to Google for a definitive breakdown of the lyrics, section by section. Brief Encounter is the spoken spider part – it very much reads like it was designed to be spoken aloud rather than sung and thanks to the way it is delivered – right down to the accent – it reminds me of a similar section from Nightwish’s epic Song Of Myself. I can only assume Nightwish was influenced here, it seems like too much of a coincidence. The ‘your carnation will rot in a vase’ seems quite abrupt and unrelated to the lines before, unless it’s referring simply to the passing of time in a bitter manner. Is there something to do with Scotland and England here – Fish is Scottish, is he speaking about an English girlfriend? Grasping, I know.

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

Lost Weekend… lyrically there isn’t much to say – mums, dads, daughters, beer, memories. Blue Angel covers another brief encounter as the narrator apparently meets a sex worker with scars or drug and physical abuse for some ‘respite’. It’s not exactly plot, but what passes for such in a concept album, but it is written with some of the old poetic flair from the previous albums. Misplaced Rendevouz… the narrator is coming to his wits a little? He’s looking for replacements of the one he wants, but is this part of the album a memory, or what the narrator is currently going through? It’s never good to dwell on the missives of a Concept album written under the spell of hallucinogens.

Windswept Thumb is playful with its road puns while Heart Of Lothian serves only to make me cover my ears until everyone stops shouting ‘Wide Boys’. There is some snazzy wordplay, plus he fits ‘rootin tootin’ into the song which almost makes up for that crap from earlier. Not a lot to this piece, so with that I’ll move over to the Podcast where presumably neither Paul or Sanja will also mention a dislike of ‘wide boys’.

It’s a long episode (for them) at one hour, and it seems like the album has been split into three parts. Paul has eight pages of notes on what I can only assume is one of his favourite albums. He leads us in by telling us of the album’s success, but how it sowed the seeds of Fish throwing his toys out of his sporran. We hear about the band writing the album while releasing a live album, and how they originally envisaged the album as two tracks – one on each side. Now, due to my lack of a writing schedule, I’m actually listening this episode of the Podcast having already written my Post for Side B of Misplaced Childhood – so I find it interesting that Paul mentions Brothers In Arms – more on that next week I guess. That also means it’s been so long that I wrote the bulk of this post that I can’t really remember what I wrote and I can’t be arsed scrolling up to see, but I think I wrote about Concept Albums not exactly being in vogue in 1985. Paul is treating the episode a little differently due to this being a Concept album, and may not go track by track – I did consider writing my posts for this album in a different way but given that I didn’t know the album I thought this would be too much effort.

Paul shares some memories of Wogan, memories which have been muddied by time, but he does remember buying the Kayleigh single after seeing the band live on Terry’s show. I was more of an Auntie’s Bloomers guy. The single was huge, only held off Number One by a bit of a fluke – is this like A Design For Life being held off the top spot by Return Of The Mack or some shit? Ah, so it is Fish doing the speaking then. A Design For Life was the song which sucked me into the Manics, but for me that was entirely the song, not the artwork or any other faff. It wasn’t until later songs from the same album, loving the album, reading the lyrics, and then being sucked down the rabbit hole of their history and falling in love. I will say that many a Metal album and Horror movie was bought or rented by me in my childhood based on its artwork. All this talk of the album’s Production and writing process is always fascinating to me – I did ask myself some related questions which this is answering – whether songs were fully formed or slapped together or cut up. Incidentally, I was 13 or 14… 13 when I first heard A Design For Life. By that point I was already aware of Concept type albums thanks to Alice Cooper, though I didn’t get into most of the other Concept Albums I enjoy until later.

There’s more about the Production – Germany, a commercially viable Producer, two tabs of acid, and a bike ride. Many albums have grown out of similar enough situations. Paul’s description of ‘not showing off’ is that quiet maturity and confidence I allude to either in this post or my Side B post – again, I wrote both a while back and haven’t got around to actually listening to the Podcasts yet. But yes, this came across to me while listening – they knew they were good, but didn’t need to rub it in anyone’s face in this instance. Rothers was interested in making Film Scores at the time and this approach of using sound to tell a story is quite clear.

Sanja describes the album as dense – maybe it’s the switch towards music and away from lyrics, but I found it less dense. I’m sure there’s plenty to unwrap that I haven’t yet, and less dense is maybe not the best way to describe it, but it is more approachable and those classic Commercial moments act as a scythe pushing the dense moments to the side. This means plebs like me who are coming to this new and may not revisit multiple times in the future can enjoy those pop rock hits without having to wade through the epics or the dirges or the reams of prose searching for an accessible hook.

There’s a discussion of grief and the exploration of Fish using language as a mask to prop up the persona of the previous albums, and the album used as a proxy for his own journey back to inner peace and progress. One of the tricky things about Concept Albums is… if the concept is silly or doesn’t speak to you as a listener, then you’re probably not going to enjoy the album. Of course you can easily ignore the lyrics and the story, but then you’re only getting half the picture. The concept of this album, at its most base level is something many people can relate to – looking back and comparing your childhood and your innocence to your current state, and trying to get better. It’s about that good old quote rolled out by every wannabee on every talent show – it’s about being true to yourself. It’s about having the balls to hone in on your flaws, admitting to them, and trying to utterly destroy them. Lightning in a bottle strikes again – Fish’s journey is mirrored by the growth and understanding of the band as musicians and as a unit.

I don’t think Biffo would like Nightwish’s sound (more on that in the next post) but his description of Marillion perfectly encapsulates what Nightwish is – grand, cinematic, yet with the melodic accessibility of pop. Except much heavier. I can’t say I got any sense of Seasons from the music – more likely because here in Northern Ireland all of our Seasons are relatively similar – our Summers rarely get higher than 22 degrees, our Winter rarely lower than 3 degrees, and rain and cloud and wind regardless of the month. Paul tells us that Fish’s story is far from over, and even though Fish seems to be coming out of a mire, the real mire may be to come. Fish became Marillion, and to be fair in reading my posts most of the focus has been on Fish. He’s a frontman – it’s rare for the frontman/vocalist to not be the focal point. Just to drop in the Manics again – in the early days it would have been Nicky and Richey doing the interviews and being the focal point, with James (their frontman) only popping in here and there. Then again, James wasn’t the one cutting himself live on stage or telling American audiences on their first tour in the US that they only good thing America ever did was kill John Lennon.

Who gets bored of watching Star Wars? I may or may not have acquired a fully restored original-Lucas-vision HD version of the original trilogy, and man does it look tasty. It’s strange how we can have that kick up the arse moment when watching a movie or hearing an album, and find that one gateway thing which opens up the world for you. I don’t really remember what that was for me in music – I’ve always loved music. I do remember the first time I heard G’n’R and that opened up the world of Rock and Metal for me, hearing Nirvana for the first time, hearing the Manics for the first time. You never forget your first.

And with that, I’m heading straight over to listen to Part 2 of the Podcast. Feel free to leave your thoughts on the album here, and as always follow the Between You And Me podcast on Twitter and the other places and be sure to give it a listen!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Movies Of 1999!

We’re into a new (old) millennium in our trawl back through my yearly lists, and this time we’ve stumbled upon our first mega-list. Twenty movies! This might take a while…

20: The Sixth Sense (US) M Night Shyamalan

I get pissed off quite easily by hype, or by acclaim – or at least I used to. Maybe being such an outsider led me down the narrow vine-choked path of assuming that anything popular is crap. There is a lot of truth in that line of thinking, but it’s also misguided. In the end, you have to view things for yourself and be aware of your biases so that they don’t influence your opinion. In other words, it took me a while to come around to The Sixth Sense. Everyone loved it, from horror fans to serious critics – as a horror fan we tend to become sceptical when one of our dirty brethren becomes accepted by the establishment. I can’t say I ever fell truly into that category of fan, but I understand the sentiment – especially when so many wonderful horror films have been overlooked. I tend to feel like the movie isn’t as powerful with repeat viewings – most will say the opposite is true. Once the film has revealed its secrets, there isn’t a lot for me to enjoy here. Naturally the twist is one I guessed fairly early on, but with all round decent plotting, a heady atmosphere, and strong performances, it remains a seminal and entertaining horror movie.

19: Girl, Interrupted (US) James Mangold

It’s the film which catapulted Angelina Jolie into the A Listers, but I was always more invested in this because of Winona Ryder and Brittany Murphy. Mangold was fresh off Cop Land which was one of my favourites of 97 so I was keen to see what we could do with a mostly female cast. There are all round great performances here, a timely soundtrack, and even though it’s a period piece it feels very modern – there are problems here which society hasn’t adequately solved yet. It’s not a film I revisit often, over most of the others on this list, but it packed a punch first time round.

18: The Green Mile (US) Frank Darabont

It’s not every day that you take a Stephen King novel and adapt it into one of the most well-loved films of all time. Frank Darabont did it twice. While The Green Mile isn’t as acclaimed as Shawshank, it is an equally epic character journey set in a hopeless world and is one of those rare occasions where the director successfully understands the core of the King’s work and is able to translate it. It is a little more sentimental than his earlier feature, but lets not forget it’s a film about the rape and murder of two young girls and a man suffering the torment of life on Death Row. Similar to Shawshank we have a terrific cast knocking it out of the park, and a story which reminds you that sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

17: Shiri (SK) Kang je Gyu

I can’t say for sure, but Shiri was the the first film I saw from South Korea that I understood was a South Korean film. Growing up, I knew my martial arts movies from China, my action movies from Hong Kong, and my horror movies from Japan – but South Korea was some other strange entity. Turns out they could do the aforementioned genres as well as anyone else. Shiri is a crime thriller which is likely the least seen movie on this list. It’s also a fish – which may be important. There is a fast pace with the stylish direction of much of 90s HK action – fans of those movies should be at home here – and while it does often feel like a homage, there’s enough cultural nuance to make it fresh, at least for someone like me.

The film starts out with a group of North Korean soldiers – best of the best types – who are sent to South Korea to commit acts of terror, espionage, and murder. We then follow the South Korean forces in charge of hunting down these spies, leading to plenty of gunplay and startling revelations. Those unfamiliar with SK Cinema will recognise a few of the performers – namely Yunjin Kim (Sun from Lost), and Song Kang-Ho (Parasite, Snowpiercer) so it is a good place to start if you’re interested in exploring movies from this region.

16: The Iron Giant (US) Brad Bird

In all honesty – The Iron Giant is a badly written story by Ted Hughes. Seriously, it does read like it was written by an illiterate child. Create to Brad Bird then for scrapping the bullshit and getting to the emotional core of the story – the fear and paranoia and friendship. WB really dropped the ball on this one, as it is easily one of the best animated movies of the decade, and if you want to go up against Disney you need to market correctly. No-one saw it at the time, but it has since gained a new audience and respect, and it’s every bit as essential at the best output of the year, animated or otherwise.

15: American Pie (US) Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz

I shouldn’t really like American Pie, but I suppose it is my Porkies. Or my Dazed And Confused. Every generation has their balls-out teen oriented movie which caters towards those of that age at that point in time, and that just happened to be me in 1999 or thereabouts. It’s the age old story of a bunch of horny teens trying to bust a nut before Prom, whether that be with a girlfriend, a model, a milf, or indeed – a pie. It’s somehow charming and helped launch a lot of careers, many of which didn’t go anywhere, and launched a franchise with rapidly diminished returns, and launched a series of clones none of which were very good. So it’s all the more remarkable that this one is still fairly funny and works as a snapshot of what teen life was like at the end of the 90s.

14: Existenz (Canada/UK/France) David Cronenberg

While David Cronenberg had continued to make interesting films through the 90s, I felt his movies, if not his subject matter, had become a little too…. tame? Mainstream? While the budgets were higher and I think he clearly grew as a Director, the films didn’t mean as much to me when compared with his 80s work. Existenz is a nice merging of his big ideas, his mainstream flirting, and his body horror, exploring humanity’s leap forwards into software, videogame technology, escapism, and reality. It’s like a pseudo-sequel to Videodrome and every bit as captivating, even as it keeps you at arm’s length. Suffering a little from going up alongside The Matrix, the film follows a game designer who is stalked by assassins in a world where two major competing companies look to design the most realistic virtual reality experience. As you would expect, there’s a lot of bizarre visuals and ‘nothing is at is seems’ shenanigans, but the stellar cast including Sarah Polley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Willem Defoe, Jude Law, and Ian Holm keep matters as grounded as is possible.

13: Ghost Dog (US/France/Germany/Japan) Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch has always been one of ‘those’ directors. People know him and either love or hate his work, but he does whatever the hell he wants. I think Ghost Dog is my favourite movie by him, and it may be his most accessible film. Essentially, Forest Whitaker is a hitman of the Leon variety – quiet, solitary, and lives by a code – specifically an ancient Samurai code and book called the Hagakure. He works for the Mafia but finds himself conflicted and hunted after a hit early in the movie. The film is him processing his thoughts and morals and methodically going about the business of killing, but it’s done in a fairly stylish way with an air of detached cool. It’s probably the first Jarmusch film I would recommend to newbs.

12: Music Of The Heart (US) Wes Craven

What the hell is this doing here? There’s no reason I should enjoy this, but I do. It’s the same old story you’ve seen before – a passionate teacher goes to a ‘dangerous’ school, and teaches them about art/music/life/literature/love instead of guns and drugs and sex. It’s that film, but for whatever reason I always enjoy these.

11: Office Space (US) Mike Judge

Mike Judge always makes watchable, addictive stuff. He has had a fairly sizeable influence on my life, or my entertainment preferences, with Beavis And Butthead and King Of The Hill being two of my favourite formative TV shows. It took me a while to get on board with his movie work, but they’re all gold. This is the most meme heavy work – there are images from this film I’d wager most people have seen without knowing the origin. Even twenty years on, the film is still the most accurate depiction of office life I’ve ever seen – nailing the dialogue, the malaise, and the characters to a T. All that would be great, but it’s stupidly funny too.

10: The Mummy (US) Stephen Sommers

The Mummy is just one of those pure popcorn entertainment films which ticks all my boxes for a good Cinema time. The effects were excellent at the time, the cast were great fun and you could tell they enjoyed every moment of making it, and it remains an excellent throwback to Indiana Jones escapades of my youth.

9: Fight Club (US/Germany) David Fincher

In all honesty, it took me a while to come around on Fight Club. It pissed me off that the film was revered so highly as this huge game-changing, life-changing thing, and it pissed me off that it seemed to be creating a cult of disciples too dim to realise that the very film they worshipped was mocking them. Taken purely on its own merits, it’s a dark and dirty treat which questions aspects of masculinity and 20th Century vice, and it’s shot with Fincher’s trademark gloom as if every camera is a recovering addict just emerging from a pit of toilet filth. Plenty of good performances abound, lots of one-liners – I just don’t buy the whole life-changing aspect.

8: Man On The Moon (US) Milos Forman

Growing up far from the US in a post 1970s world, I didn’t have any idea who Andy Kaufman was. Over time, as I got more into comedy and film, I learned about Taxi and heard Kaufman’s name, but I wasn’t aware he was such a big deal, and suh a fascinating character until this film was released. I was miffed that this flew so far under the radar at the time, and I tried telling people that it was Carrey’s best performance. It’s only in recent years that the film is now being re-evaluated, especially in the aftermath of that Jim Carrey Documentary. In any case, this is a comedy fan’s masterclass, a film with laughs, absurdity, and pathos in equal measure, with an Oscar worthy Carrey performance and great support.

7: Dogma (US) Kevin Smith

I’m not Catholic, but I did grow up never far from Church, Bible, Preacher, and Verse. If there’s any connective tissue between most religions of this world, it’s their attempts to make you feel inferior, guilty, and to keep you under control – like a virus, they do these things to give themselves meaning. Or do they make you a more positive, caring person? Bottom line – we’re all different, religious or not, dicks or not. Kevin Smith takes aim at, well, dogma, with his simple plot probing more questions than you would expect in a film which features a giant turd monster. The film follows Affleck and Damon as two Angels who find a loophole which allows them to get back into Heaven, having been expelled by The Lord. Unfortunately, we learn that if they succeed then that would prove that God is fallible, and the world, the universe would crumble and cease to exist. Along for the ride are plenty of View Askew familiars, Alan Rickman, Alanis Morissette, Chris Rock, Linda Fiorentino, and Salma Hayek in a bikini – which is of critical import. Like Smith’s best work, it’s funny, provocative, challenging, and stupid in equal measure.

6: End Of Days (US) Peter Hyams

1999 was a strange time. I was there to see it, to laugh at the paranoia, to get drunk at all the best parties, and to consume all of the cultural oddities from film to music which cropped up. Thankfully, humanity at large took it all in the best of spirits, whereas I feel like if 1999 was more like today’s culture – we’d all be fucked by Right Wing Crazed extremists preaching censorship and control, and using the End Of Days as another tool to make themselves the big boys of the yard. In 1999, we were all a little more innocent, hopeful, but that didn’t stop Arnie adorning a sidearm or two and going to war with Rapey little Gabey Byrne’s Satan. Byrne’s Satan is a lovely malevolent creature, fucking your wife right in front of you, then asking you to pay him for the pleasure, hunting for babies to munch on, and patting his lips with glee at carnage created or witnessed. The tail end of the 90s wasn’t the most impressive for Arnie – his star was on the wane and his political ambitions were at the fore – yet he still had enough clout to take on the Dark One and save us all from eternal damnation. Or allow us all to live long enough to see a different sort of demon expose the failings of humanity from atop perch bought with ignorance and hate.

5: Audition (Japan) Takashi Miike

Miike makes a dozen films each year, but perhaps none have had the impact of Audition, culturally and critically, and commercially. This is the Miike film that people who haven’t heard of the man know. This is also a film which can make a grown man wince and cry and look sidelong at the woman sitting beside him and wonder internally why she wears a wry smile during the film’s final ten minutes. It’s gloriously shot, a film of two halves tied together by two captivating leads and an unnerving sense of dread, of something being not quite right. It’s one of those films which makes Hollywood Only fans reconsider their short-sighted fandom and dare to peer beyond their sunny but bland shores.

4: South Park (US) Trey Parker

I watched this as a double header with American Pie at a friend’s 17th Birthday. Both accompanied each other well, but this got the most laughs, and the least uncomfortable boners. It’s one of the very few select instances of a TV show making a good movie. It’s not just good – it’s fantastic. Plus it does the near impossible, and makes a Musical…not shit. The songs are funny, you’ll laugh till your tears turn red, and you’ll wonder why the hell else other great shows can’t match the feat.

3: The Matrix (US/OZ) The Wachowski Brothers

If you were to choose maybe ten movies which defined the 90s, there’s a strong possibility that The Matrix would appear on that list. And on most people’s lists. It’s one of the most influential movies of the era, one of the most visually striking, but it’s also simply a fun and action packed ride, delivering blockbuster thrills, and engaging story, and plenty of dialogue which every dick has been misquoting or mismeme-ing since. It’s a pity the sequels were what they wore, but for a few years this was the peak and the future of action. It made or re-made stars of Keanu Reeves, Fisbourne, and Hugo Weaving, and made it cool (apparently) to strut around in long black coats and shades in the Summer Sun, or at pitch black night. I did this before it was cool, and when people began calling me Neo, I would state plainly that I was mimicking a Terminator – the philistines.

2: The Blair Witch Project (US) Daniel Myrick Eduardo Sanchez

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade, so check it out.

1: Bangkok Dangerous (Thailand) The Pang Brothers

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade, so check it out.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two

Best Actress – 1979

Official Nominations: Sally Field. Jill Clayburgh. Jane Fonda. Marsha Mason. Bette Midler.

Clayburgh and Fonda are back again from last year, along with Mason from the year before that – Mason doesn’t leave much of an impression on me in Chapter Two – the film itself is instantly forgettable, and Clayburgh and Fonda’s performances aren’t as strong or interesting as 1978 – Starting Over and The China Syndrome not exactly being exceptional. That leaves the two more iconic roles – Sally Field, who picked up the official win as Norma Rae, and Bette Midler as ‘not Janis Joplin’ in The Rose. I love both of these and either would be a winner in any of the last three years. I’m not a huge fan of either actress, but there’s no getting away from how good they are here, both are full-blooded, couldn’t give any more, energetic performances and while they are a product of their time they haven’t lost any of their power.

My Winner: Bette Midler

Bette Midler Breakout Film The Rose Being Adapted into a Broadway Musical | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com

My Nominations: Bette Midler. Sally Field. Isabella Adjani. Sigourney Weaver. Natasha Kinski.

1979 was not the most interesting year for me where the Best Actress category was concerned – I take my two favourite performances from the Official category and add a couple of oversights. I was tempted to add Meryl Streep here for her dual performances in Manhattan and The Seduction Of Joe Tynan – but both are supporting roles. Isabella Adjani gets a nomination for one of the more sexual and seductive takes on Lucy Harker rather than the usual passive damsel – Nosferatu being vital watching for all Horror fans, while Natasha Kinski’s Tess is one of the better examples of a 19th Century heroine being brought kicking and screaming into the 20th Century. My winner is an example of a supporting character becoming the lead, and while her performance in the sequel is perhaps more worthy of the win she is my standout favourite this year. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley broke down many barriers and expectations for what an actress could portray on screen and almost single-handedly created a generation of female characters who could command a movie and drive a plot.

My Winner: Sigourney Weaver

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Fugazi – Side B!

Fugazi (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! Welcome back to my adventures in Fishysitting. Today I talk about Side B of Fugazi. No nonsense this time because I slipped behind a little on listening and writing about the band – lets get stuck in.

She Chameleon starts the second half, a half which only features three songs and should hopefully mean we have a shorter post. Inside of about eight seconds, I knew I liked this song more than Emerald Lies. I love a bit of organ – I think this is less due to my somewhat religious upbringing, and more about the sheer physical power of the instrument. And its association with horror movies and related iconography. Fish reintroduces his higher range and when coupled with the very slow pace and dirge like quality of the opening minutes, it reminded me some Doom Metal bands I enjoy. Doom Metal (for anyone not aware) is one of the branches of Metal which takes most of its cues from Black Sabbath – riff based, loud, but a generally ponderous pace. Doom Metal bands often feature singers at the extreme edges of vocal abilities – Mt Olympus tickling highs or six feet under lows. 

The song threatens to pick up at a couple of points, but beyond a brief jaunt into double figure RPM in the middle, it rarely gets out of first gear. Which is fine – I’ve said I like a dirge if that’s the intent. It is obvious it’s a dark and gloomy approach they’re going for, and the fade-out actually suits this approach. I could have done with the fade-out being longer – it seems to come from nowhere, then fade and be gone inside of a few seconds. I’m curious to hear what Paul and Sanja think about this one – there’s no energy, but there is atmosphere. I’m not sure they enjoy She Chameleon because it is so slow, and it is repetitive thanks to the looping organ and to the drums often mimicking the vocals. I don’t mind it – I don’t think it’s going to be one I listen to again outside of publishing this post, unless I give the whole album another go, but that keyboard section in the middle is nifty. The whole ‘fuck’ section is amusing for a number of reasons – because the delivery seems so soft and sweet, and because he says it so many times – but it’s also very silly.

The title She Chameleon, before listening, already had me thinking the song is about Fish and a woman. What lyrics I picked up support this theory, although this being a Prog band you wouldn’t be surprised if it was more literal – an actual half human, half reptilian freakshow a la Species or Lair Of The White Worm. That was an odd movie. The song does reference ‘the lizard’ but I can’t hear that term without recalling The Doors and, well, cocks. ‘I touch the lizard’ is not something a rock star should say with a straight face. After reading the lyrics I wonder if the sound of the song is supposed to be seductive rather than Doom-laden. It makes sense that it’s a mixture of both – you’re being tempted to your doom by a seductress Siren – see, I have read The Odyssey! The lyrics are unusually up front and not obtuse – it’s about meaningless sex, often in a drugged haze, though there is that tinge of washed out tiredness, of guilt, and the clear suggestion that the ‘she’ half of these chameleons (with Fish being the other) are groupies and Fish is aware he’s using them and they’re using him. 

Incubus is over eight minutes long and this time it’s Animals which I must reference. An underrated Pink Floyd album, but one of their holy quadrilogy. The intro to this song has a guitar/keyboard part which is almost identical to a chunk of Dogs on that album. If you know both songs, you know what I’m talking about, right? I don’t say this in criticism, but rather in relief because before that guitar part dropped, the opening seconds of the song made it seem like it was going to be akin to something by one of those white boy reggae bands like The Police or Madness or UB40 or some such shite. It’s a decent enough song up until the piano drops and it transforms into something more tasty. The pace doesn’t increase significantly so there’s the likelihood some listeners may be put off that it’s the second slow, long song in a row.

The song is another instance of me wondering if the two distinct halves were at one time different songs. I think it was mentioned on the podcast in a previous episode that one song was culled from parts of various earlier pieces. Equally though, songs of distinct halves can be built in this way from their point of origin – I’ve written a couple of songs where the intention was always to ‘flip the switch’ at one point, or for the song to feature one major transition or flow through different sequences. Then again, I’ve had instrumental parts float around my head which never had a place and weren’t interesting enough on their own to be anything deliverable, only for another idea or fully formed song to come along which I was able to tack the instrumental piece on to, as an ending or an intro, and the two pieces transform into something special. Not to say anything I’ve ever done is special, but once the two pieces were joined it was like they were always meant to be.

In the final third of Incubus everything becomes more grand – another soaring, string-bending solo and some tasty backing vocals – I’m sure there have been other backing vocals and I’ve missed or forgotten them, and I can’t recall many harmonic sections in the Marillion songs I’ve heard so far. Fish is a powerful enough vocalist to stand on his own, but if you have the ability to write good harmonies and can find a spot for them, then they almost always elevate the song. Fish adopts a softer vocal after the piano portion begins, and if I’m being overly critical I’m not sure he pulls this off neatly in each line. There’s a few moments where his voice seems too weak, or when the vocal wavers, and I don’t think this was a conscious decision – could have been cleared up with another take. Quite a lot of echo effects on the vocals here, though there’s a moment it seems where a string section (synth in this case) is going to take over, but the string synth stays low in the mix to let the guitar solo hold centre-stage. As I’m something of a sweeping string section fan, I would have loved the strings to take over here – full orchestra rather than synth of course.

In terms of Fish and his storytelling abilities, this feels like a more mature, coherent, and complete effort. The song’s transitions are fluid and the lyrical progress matches the procession and changes within the music – it’s a good example of the band all being ‘in this together’ while previous efforts felt more like the band was playing catch up to the lyrics or the two not being in synch. As I write this particular thought, I haven’t looked at the lyrics although several lines stand out and offer potential insight – the intro hinting again at rock star disillusion – and there are references to acting, fame, the theatre, hiding your true face scattered throughout. Based on what I’ve learned from other songs on the album, that disillusionment and disconnection seems to be a key theme – the rock star having to put on a show, to always be ‘on’ and that side of his persona becoming the driving force to the eventual detriment of his other component parts, his relationships. 

Googling the lyrics unveils just how much the theatre metaphor is used, alongside other images of fantasy, invention, and sex. Several motifs recur from verse to verse – darkroom, developing the negative, exposed, lens, film reels, celluloid, but those two are enveloped in the overarching themes of performance and deceit. As to hazarding a guess as to what it’s all about – it would seem wasteful to me to write something so fully formed and not have it be about someone specific. Luckily it’s universal enough that anyone could apply it to some trauma in their own life, most obviously a break-up. Without knowing the full context of the band and the time these songs were written I can’t say for sure who or what inspired the song, but the whole ‘All the world’s a stage’ viewpoint has of course been used since Shakespeare and all of the Greek and Latin poets he liberally nicked from. I think by this point I can take a punt at ‘Fish was pissed off at/by X’ and I’ll be 80% there. Presumably he expands his ‘Things To Be Angry About’ manifesto in future albums.

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

Fugazi closes the album, though at first glance I had to make sure I hadn’t accidentally clicked on Spread Your Wings by Queen because those intro piano pieces are very similar. This is momentary and the song quickly transforms into a very cool, epic, closer. There’s a lot going on in this song – here are a few of the scattered ‘this sounds like’ thoughts I had when first listening; Spread Your Wings, Alice Cooper, Jaunty sideshow music, James Bond, The Time Warp, FLASH, Pink Floyd (again), Marillion. Yes, by the end of the song the band is starting to sound like themselves. For some clarity on such an unusual statement – this essentially (to me) means that the band has consolidated their own voice and, like an auteur, if I were to hear a Marillion song without knowing it was them I would have a pretty good idea that it was a Marillion song. Of course I still have a hell of a long way to go, but I’m beginning to recognize the hallmarks and this song ticks those off. 

With all of those related or disparate artists listed above, you may expect the song to be more jumbled than it is – the Marillion voice holds it together. Plenty of artists wear their influences on their sleeves and those can be easily identified, but the trick is to avoid being a pastiche or homage or tribute act, and Marillion are succeeding at this – they take component parts, add their own flavour (largely governed by Fish, his lyrics, and his vocals), and become their own thing. From the downbeat opening, building to the (at least musically) triumphant conclusion, the song is another journey of emotion which doesn’t shed any light on what ‘Fugazi’ is beyond a general state of confusion. Given the shifts in the song I imagine it’s a fun one to see and perform live – many of the parts lend themselves to overt theatricality and if I squint in my imaginings I can make out a bunch of laser shows and prancing shenanigans on stage. Taking it further, I imagined this song being stretched beyond it’s running time to allow for some comedy audience interaction as Fish throws dolls into the crowd… it’s that Alice Cooper feeling coming through again as I expect any act who sounds somewhat like Alice Cooper to put on similar amusing live performances.

Having listened to this song close to double figures, I get the feeling that I’m still only scratching at the surface of its complexity – something I could say for the album as a whole. These aren’t simple 3 minute pop or rock songs, or even Metal songs with obvious riffs and big choruses which will solidify around your memory sacks after a couple of listens. These take effort and I can see why some may dismiss the music. Prog fans on the other hand, perhaps known for being receptive to challenging music and taking the time to allow complex and longer form music to sink in, should get a lot out of this. Given that my classic Prog intimate knowledge begins and ends with Pink Floyd, before shooting off to the bands with Prog elements – the Alice Coopers, The Gatherings, Devin Townsends, Nightwishes, and to a lesser extent the Iron Maidens and Led Zeppelins of the world, I’m hardly qualified to tell Prog fans that this is something they might enjoy. I’m sure they’re as snooty as the rest of us about what they like, and especially about being told what they should like. If I were to recommend a song to Prog fans as to what Marillion or Fugazi was all about (with the caveat that it’s just one song and a small piece of a larger whole) then it would probably be this title track. It isn’t my favourite song on the album, but it does feel like an Overture, taking us on the condensed thematic and musical journey of the whole album.

Looking to my own preferences…. the keyboard parts which lead into the ‘thief of Baghdad’ section are cheesy and silly but I’ll excuse this as another edition of ‘Hey, It’s The Eighties!’ where the best musical decisions were not always made. I’m iffy about synth anyway, so once again I’m not the most level-headed judge. Certain sections work more for me than others but they all contribute to the whole – the military drums which fade in as the song fades out, I half expected those to lead into one final section to close the album, but that never transpired. The drums therefore seem like an odd choice to pop in for a few seconds before leaving. At some point in the future I’ll likely revisit all of these albums to see what I remember, but until then I think only pieces of this song will stay with me.

It’s at this point I gulp a huge intake of breath before tapping ‘Fugazi Marillion lyrics’ into a search engine, and sigh as I see the ‘read more’ option after six paragraphs had already displayed on the screen. The song reverts back to disjointed one-liners, musings shoved together with loose connections. Which is fine – many of my favourite bands and writers write almost exclusively in this manner. This can be distancing for anyone reading the lyrics and I would think a fair portion would read them once then be forced to ignore the lyrics entirely in future listens. The second verse references Shakespeare again, ‘Aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation’ should have been Sony’s tagline for the Walkman, and I notice see the song repeatedly mentions places in London, or is it tube stations? I love the London Underground – it’s such a maze and feat of human invention. I love how old it is too, especially when I compare it with the shitty non-existent transport system of Northern Ireland. Did Fish write this song while travelling to and fro in London, concocting stories and lyrics about the people and situations he saw, crushed in the rush hour thrall? He then makes a comparison between this and Concentration Camps, at which point I realize the song is totally Fugazi.

So Fish is pissed at… everything? When he pleads at the end for the prophets and poets, is he begging to find someone like himself? I’m sure there’s a larger story here, and I’m sure Paul and Sanja will discuss, but for me it is second album complete! It is a more rock oriented album, it doesn’t seem to jump off in as many opposing directions as Script, and a lot of the songs do align to an overhaul theme. I’m not sure I’d classify it as a concept album, but I could definitely see it being argued as such. For me, Fugazi doesn’t hit enough of the trappings of the concept album – the recurring musical motifs, songs referencing other songs in music and lyric, and potentially portraying an overt and obvious plot. I’ve no idea if Marillion ever goes down this route, but they clearly have the song-writing chops and creative ability to do so.

The next episode of the Podcast opens with the realization that there was a bonus fucking song which I haven’t listened to yet. Cinderella Search did come on a few times on Youtube after Fugazi ended, but I didn’t listen to it. I’m assuming Paul’s not talking about H from steps and his purple tier? I haven’t seen old H since last Summer when he was in Menorca with his parents and kids and we’d keep bumping in to him at the family friendly bars around the resort. Celebrity friends, yay!

We learn that She Chameleon appears elsewhere in a more upbeat, possibly psychedelic version because the song had been around for a while before the album was recorded. Paul doesn’t think much of that version, while Sanja sounds like more of a fan. Having not heard it, I can’t comment. As expected, the album version is called out as a dirge, yet dripping with atmosphere. Hammer Horror seems like an apt comparison – I mentioned Doom Metal, a genre which relies heavily on atmosphere and took plenty of its atmospheric and visual cues from the horror genre, specifically British films of the Hammer and Amicus vein. Paul drops the spoiler that he prefers the final two songs on this half to She Chameleon – I think I felt roughly the same about each track – things I liked, things I liked less. Sanja doubles down on the lizard analogy and interprets the song as Fish being manipulated by groupies – I get the impression that Fish was happily receptive and knowing of the behaviour. Paul clarifies that She Chameleon was a reaction to the negative feedback of Three Boats Down From The Candy, but again drugs are a wonderful excuse for woopsy do antics. 

Paul and Sanja enjoy Incubus more, with exquisite guitar and fun ‘ooh ahhs’. The Lonely Flute also sounds like a Prog album title. I’m sure Fish could attach a few hundred words to a title like that and slap a song out of it, with the flute an obvious euphemism for his knob. Yes, the reggae… not a genre I have ever paid much attention to beyond the obvious. Sanja – if you want to target the kidz with this podcast, how about ‘exquizzle’? Paul thinks it’s one of their best from an all round perspective. I enjoy the second half more than the first, though I’m not sure it rubs my singalong organ as rigorously as it does Paul’s. Paul tells us the basis for the song – the Incubus being of course the female equivalent of the Succubus – with Fish introducing the song as the dangers of taking nudey pics of an ex and reminding her that you have it for…. reasons? I mentioned the references to film in my assessment, but I didn’t get this pervy meaning from it. The song sounds more… important (?) than that so possibly Fish doesn’t know or remember what it was about. It seems increasingly apparent that Fish just likes putting together words and phrases he enjoys with no greater meaning or connective tissue.

With Fugazi, Sanja appreciates the word artistry, but admits to it being distancing. Oy, was that a snide comment at the expense of Iron Maiden – hooks in you? Not one of my favourite Iron Maiden songs by any means, but the band had lost their way at that point in their career. Sanja sees the ending as a battle cry, which is a good way of describing it. Is this album a more rocky prog, or simply a less twatty prog? I don’t know… I have made comparisons with other bands in most of the songs above, but I can’t remember now if those were songs and artists which came before or after this album. This is what happens when you write a post over a number of days and are too lazy a writer to bother to self review (or edit). I do remember mentioning that the ending sounded jubilant musically, but I didn’t feel the lyrics matched this. Hearing the interpretation, I understand it. I’m surprised Yellow Dinner On A Lorry hasn’t made its way into a Found Footage yet. Look, drugs do amazing and bizarre things to you – and the feeling often remains long past the come down. I wrote a song called ‘Do You Want A Ham’, which may have been influenced by illegal muffins, and the lyrics consisted entirely of ‘Do you want a ham? Put it on a plate. I’ve got the heads’. To my credit, it was knowingly crap and only three minutes long. Hella catchy, yo. Sanja picks up on an entirely different set of recurring phrases than I did, which is a pro and con of Fish’s writing. There’s something for everyone… but none of us will get it.

The Podcast ends with a chat about Cinderella Search which I still haven’t listened to. I’ll go off and listen to it after writing this, but I doubt I’ll talk about it. Paul bemoans the fact that this wasn’t on the album in place of one of the crappy ones. Did Marillion ever do a bit of Lucas/Spielberg revisionism with their albums – say change out some tracks on a re-release? The Manics have done that a couple of times and while I’m not a fan of such changes, it’s fine to add on the B-Sides for a Special Edition. The next album apparently takes another musical leap and sees the band hitting the big time – exciting.

Thanks to everyone or anyone who reads these things, go off and listen to the Podcast and the album yourselves if you’re a Marillion fan, or why not join us all on this very long and odd journey. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to follow the Podcast on Twitter @BYAMPOD!

Best Foreign Film – 1979

Official Nominations: The Tin Drum. The Maids Of Wilko. Mama Turns 100. A Simple Story. To Forget Venice

1979 continues the decade’s downturn in quality as the years progressed – like last year there isn’t a standout choice or one film which most people will be aware of. The Tin Drum was the winner this year, but I find it a little impenetrable and overlong, following a few generations of a Polish family from the late 19th Century into WWII. It also has some dubious scenes involving an underage performer. Similarly, Wajda’s The Maids Of Wilko doesn’t do much for me, the well acted story of a man returning to the home of some sisters he used to tutor, only to discover them changed. Mama Turns 100 is typical comedy crap, To Forget Venice is the same, except for romance. My Winner then is A Simple Story – Romy Schneider is a women who gets pregnant, has an abortion, then deals with the suicide of one of her co-worker’s husbands. Again it’s hardly exceptional, but well-acted and not as annoying as some of the others here.

My Winner: A Simple Story

A Simple Story (1978 film) - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia

My Nominations: Love On The Run. Mad Max. The Marriage Of Maria Braun. Life Of Brian. Meatballs. Nosferatu The Vampire. Quadrophenia.

There isn’t a huge list of quality films to choose from this year, so we fall back on middling work from masters. Truffaut’s Love On The Run continues and concludes his Doinel series of films, this one being a montage movie as the character meets up with various past lovers as he tries to embark on his next relationship. The Marriage Of Maria Braun is Rainer Werner Fassbinder on better form following a woman’s perpetual on and off relationship with a soldier during and after WWII. Life Of Brian is more manic banter from the Monty Python lads, while Meatballs introduced the world to Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray who would both go on to better things.

Werner Herzog continued his partnership with Klaus Kinski in the memorably grim and beautiful Nosferatu remake while The Who would bring another album to life with the gritty, star-studded Quadrophenia. Keeping things British is the always controversial Scum, about a place where ‘bad boys went’ – there was one near my house when I was young and my parents were always threatening me with being dropped off there. I don’t think they ever saw Scum. Vengeance Is Mine is Japan bringing the US gangster movie style and maturity to their own shores with a twist, but my vote goes to one of the greatest Australian movies of them all – Mad Max. Australia had several notable films this year but Mel Gibson and George Miller’s apocalyptic road movie is an exercise in unease and roaring V8s.

My Winner: Mad Max

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Fugazi (Side A)!

Fugazi (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! I have survived the first Marillion album, slopping out the other end unscathed and with greater musical awareness. I know it has only been one album and there are four hundred more to come, but I’ve enjoyed things so far after being apprehensive. I know I try to be as open-minded about music as possible, but so many sacred cows or cult swine I’ve listened to so far have turned out to be swill. That hasn’t been the case with Marillion, though I have given them much more due diligence than the aforementioned artists in my belaboured metaphor. In today’s post, which will be written over the course of at least a week, I’ll be giving Side A of Fugazi a gander. As expected, I know nothing about the thing.

A brief spoiler free look at Wikipedia tells me the album came barely a year after the debut. Can a band change their sound in one year? Can they become better musicians, hone their song writing skills, or become jaded by the never-ending cycle of writing, recording and touring in just 12 months? Are these questions which this album will answer, and did Dr Sam Beckett ever make the final leap home? Perhaps by the end of this post we’ll find out.

As Paul took such a deep dive at the artwork on Script For A Jester’s Tear, I should take a closer look at Fugazi’s offering. Mark ‘Swords’ Wilkinson has elected to delight us with an emaciated, dead-eyed waif splayed suggestively on a rather hard looking bed, a flagon of wine (blood?) slipping from one skeletal hand, and what appears to be a poppy in the other. The Jpeg I’m looking at is very small… must find a larger one. Is this supposed to be the Jester from the first album? Is it supposed to be Fish? The dude is semi-wearing colourful stockings, his loins barely covered by a near see-through sheet, and there’s a foule-bordeau over one thigh. A painting of an unhappy jester sits discarded by the bed, and a conveniently placed mirror shows the reflection of a fully kitted out harlequin meaning the guy on the bed and the guy in the mirror are two halves of the same whole! Elsewhere, Mr Nudey has a Walkman on and there’s a copy of a music publication near his feet, sort of looks like the NME, in the background a lizard is tongue-abusing a bird’s arse, and there’s a painting on the wall which I’ll guess is a hint at something to come in a future album, or hints at something within this album?

The whole thing is like a grizzled detective walking in on a closed door crime scene mystery. Who or what is Fugazi, and why is it scrawled like that? Why does it look like there is a skull in the pink throw over the sofa? I’m sure there’s a lot more to this that I’ve missed – the window open, the colours, the (magpie?) holding a ring in its beak – but my key takeaway is that it all strikes me as very metal. The detail, the font, the whole presentation is very 80s metal. Like movie posters have become something of a lost art, album covers these days are so plain or vague while the classics of the 70s and 80s – not even the classics in fact – you could lose yourself for hours looking at these things and scouring for Easter Eggs. I realise I’ve just spent three paragraphs typing nonsense and haven’t even got to the music yet, so lets go.

Assassing is a play on ‘assassin’, but as a word I can’t take it seriously. I make a verb out of the second ‘ass’, and then I personify the first meaning you have an ass assing about the place, and then I get these images of huge asses walking around and assing each other till half the song is over and I haven’t heard a single second. The song begins with some Eastern chanting and drumming – it’s all very mysterious and tribal while reminding me that so many Prog albums begin in a similar vein – a surge and build up of instruments and/or noise before a crushing riff drops. The moment the guitar started here I thought of Pink Floyd’s Run Like Hell – not one of my favourites from The Wall, but that’s hardly a slight given that album is an all time Top Five for me. The pulsating, chasing beat which drives the majority of the song is quite similar to Run Like Hell, but here we have clashing keyboard and guitar solos which scream at me to stop making unhelpful Pink Floyd comparisons. The song also spins off in a few directions while Run Like Hell mostly ploughs a single course.

I was half expecting a more metal oriented album after Paul’s comments that the first album era feel was a one album thing, and after checking out the artwork. It’s not metal, and it’s not necessarily harder edged than most of the first album’s tracks. However, it does have less of a… folk sound? That’s not the correct musical term, but the first album felt innocent somehow while this did strike me as more confident, polished, fully formed. Maybe it’s the Production, or maybe I’m an idiot. Fish’s vocals do sound more solid, bold, full. I found some of the delivery similar to Dave Mustaine of Megadeth – they sound nothing alike, but in terms of trying to shove as many words into a single breath as possible.

It is all quite 80s – the guitar sound, the drum tone, it takes me back. Of course I was only a year old when this dropped, but I did grow up emerged in 80s music and it is possible to be nostalgic for a time or a sound that you weren’t really a part of. It’s always a treat when you discover a song or a movie that you didn’t know about from an era or genre you love. They say you stop listening or caring about new music when you hit 30, and instead stick with the bands you know and love but that school of thought usually ignores the fact that it’s possible to make these retro discoveries – the music may not be new, but it’s new to me. I realise I haven’t talked about the song much – I like it; interesting opener, gets you moving, the little section after the four minute mark is nifty and atmospheric before building back up to the main riff.

Thematically, I assume it’s about an assassin -before reading them. I picked up very few of the lyrics in my first few listens and will now refer to Google to read the lyrics. I’m not going to trust the lyrics posted in the comments of Youtube – incidentally, the Marillion fans leaving comments have an amusing slant of hyperbole, which is always nice. In first reading of the lyrics, I had James Bond in my head, or possibly Mr. Scaramanga – a smooth tongued killer – but this quickly morphed into images of ladder-climbing, scrambling to get to the top of your profession and stamping out the competition by any means, without mercy. Of course the repeated ‘my friend’ hints at the person being a back-stabber and saying all the right things, making the right contacts then discarding when no longer needed. I will say that quite a few of the lines are sloppy – they’re not as precise as I was expending both in terms of phrasing along with the music and in theme. They froth with anger, but it’s more on the juvenile side of sloganeering than being insightful or repeatable. Then of course there’s a twist that the ‘assassin’ is defeated by a better ‘assassin’. Which makes me think this is more personal than it originally seemed, with presumably Fish placing himself as the winner. I don’t know. It could be about career climbing scum, it could be about some bloke.

Something I often find with Prog bands and with metal bands – artists known for songs frequently going over the five minute mark, is that their shorter songs can be throwaways; songs either built expressly under pressure to release a single or songs written around one simple idea, or songs with not as much creative intent or care behind their construction. Sometimes these songs can be fun – a diversion or a breather from the epics, sometimes they only serve as a connective tissue in a concept album and don’t fare well as a standalone, and sometimes they’re the ones I skip. Punch And Judy luckily avoids the trappings of the prog throwaway – it’s hardly a traditionally short song, just by Marillion’s standards till this point. I imagine it could have been longer but they consciously made the decision to not draw things out. The intro for example – all of those synth parps could easily have been stretched past the minute mark but only last a few seconds before the guitars and vocals join. Possibly this one was marked from the beginning as a single or the band thought it had more impact as a shorter piece.

Aside from the length, it has a more orthodox structure overall – it very much follows your standard verse chorus verse format, albeit with subtle tweaks – the longer instrumental break, the emergency stop finish, and as always the breathless delivery of copious words. Fish sounds like he’s auditioning to be the fourth Bee Gee at various points while the rhythm of the song never falters. I enjoy the lead guitar riff, it both ascends and descends in a cyclical nature then drops out for simple chords in the verse – you can almost hear the riff in those spaces when it isn’t being played. I picked up many more of the lyrics without having to Google them – witty amusing ripostes concerning aging and relationships, and presumably aging in a relationship. With the name, I have to assume a certain level of physical abuse. Anytime I think about Punch And Judy, I think about Worzel Gummidge. No idea why, but I never want to think about Worzel Gummidge as those are nightmares I can do without. Are Punch And Judy shows still a thing? They always seemed a very English thing to me – sandy beaches, kids dropping their 99s and wailing for another, Mr Bean trying to de-robe in front of a blind guy – things mostly foreign to me growing up. My town sort of had a beach – more of a muddy expanse which you could trudge across when the tide went out, though you could use it as a quick short cut to get over to the far outskirts of the town. Of course you didn’t want to do that though, as that’s where the big Council Estate was and I didn’t fancy a kicking.

As part of Googling the lyrics, I had to Google ‘Mogadon’ – turns out it’s not a prehistoric creature. The song is about everything I expected, though almost every line is gold – good to save up for the next time you fancy an argument with the spouse, though probably not advised. It’s all very ‘I’m a bitter old bloke and I’m sick of being stuck with this old bird and what the hell happened to my life’. I’ve always called Hibernation by the Manics my favourite lyrical shredding of relationships, but that’s a much more depressing affair – equally cynical but humourless. Fish is at least having fun with the tropes.  Interesting that both songs mention mortgages. What didn’t come out in my Googling (I did just look at the first result) was the refrain which sounds like ‘Punch…. Punch The Judy’, but which may just be ‘Punch… Punch And Judy’. Punch the Judy is of course more violent, but given the song ends up in a dark place anyway I’m not sure Punch the Judy is much of a stretch. The sudden end compliments the lyrics – like I was suggesting what the music of Grendel could have done for its last line. Overall, it’s a song which convinces me the band is proficient and comfortable writing the short form as the epic.

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

Onto the third, and not final song of this post. Jigsaw takes us back up to the near seven minute mark. Within the opening seconds of this one, I had a number of musical references – Let Down by Radiohead, Someone In The Dark by Michael Jackson (from ET), and Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys. Those songs have a span of around thirty years, but to some extent they all have some sort of a lullaby ambiance to their musical content. Almost every minute of this kept throwing further references spinning through my nostalgia nub – The Who and Pink Floyd in the verse, then 80s Power Ballads for the explosion in the chorus. It’s all rather lovely, isn’t it? Sure the chorus veers close to tipping into full blown cheese, but it all certainly fits the 80s rock knife edge the album has teetered on so far. Without touching on the lyrics yet, the music is emotional enough on its own – I imagine this is one of the Marillion songs to bring full grown, bearded men to tears when it’s played live – assuming it is. It’s not the most complicated song so I assume it is, or would have been a live staple. It’s in ballad territory so already prepped for overwrought emotion and exaltations of starved and repressed feelings, but there is more nuance – the central guitar solo is played with a tone and fervour designed to eek out those tears, playing precisely the expected notes to unlock the ducts and let the tears flow. And flow. Not that it has reached that point for me of course – I can feel the emotion but currently the song means nothing to me – I don’t know the lyrical content or background and I have not attachment to it. But I can feel what it is doing and can understand that this is likely ‘one of those songs’ for Marillion fans. Credit to Rothers (can I call him that?) for his playing here – and an opportunity for me to once again recommend the almighty Buckethead for anyone looking for emotive guitar music. Yes, he wears a bucket on his head, but that’s only because he doesn’t want anyone to see his ugly cries from hearing and playing his own epic shit.

There’s quite a lot of silence in the song – often in the verses it’s just the vocals, sometimes near spoken, and the lullaby keyboard with little accompaniment. The drums are at times like a funeral march, Fish tests his range with a variety explosive yelps and tender musings, and the song is mostly successful at things I don’t normally like – whispers, spoken sections. Incidentally, I asked Alexa to play this while I was making lunch one day (leftover sausages and pineapple marzipan) and she selected a live version from 1994 I believe. There are no drums in the verses but the audience decided to clap along, before quickly going out of time and giving up. It can be a pain to have people clap along to your songs as it can knock your playing out of sync. They did get to belt out ‘Stand straight’ instead of Fish.

Going over the lyrics.. it’s another long one – almost as long as this post. The first couple of stanzas – it’s not clear who the ‘we’ are, possibly the band, possibly the band and the fans and the ‘we’ of fandom, or maybe it’s just a couple. If I’m honest, I am sometimes disappointed when powerful and emotive songs happen to be ‘just about love’, because almost every other song ever written is about love. I like something more, though to be fair to Marillion even when they tackle your typical topics they do so with a unique voice. The chorus then, smells like a breakup, complete with requisite musical anguish. The next few verses have more of a futility in the words chosen, an inevitability opposed to the otherwise hopeful coupling of the first verses. Not for the first time Fish uses violent or final imagery when talking about love – Trigger happy, Russian roulette, dream coins to cover your eyes etc – the dude doesn’t seem to cope well with breakups, of his own doing or otherwise. Which is fair enough, who is? I can see a particular type of angry young man feeling some affiliation to these words, but then again most of us have seen relationships come to an end and can be pretty pissed off, confused, and depressed about it all – sometimes it’s good to know someone out there has been through similar shit and can put put your feelings to tune.

In this instance I feel it’s the music which elevates the lyric – in most cases so far the opposite has been true. The lyrics are opaque – it could be about anything though the end of a relationship seems like the most logical assumption. They don’t feel so personal or insightful or cutting, while the music gets straight to the point – I know form the music I’m supposed to feel a certain way and that is successful, while the lyrics feel like scattered enigmatic thoughts. Nevertheless, it’s another song I see myself listening to beyond the confines of the post and podcast. Am I a Marillion fan? There hasn’t been anything I haven’t enjoyed yet and there are plenty of bands out there I consider myself a fan of having only heard or enjoyed a single one of their albums. Lets not get ahead of ourselves – this was lovely, maybe everything else is crap.

Emerald Lies closes Side A. The 80s drums and scattered intro left me with no idea where the song is going beyond wondering if it was the theme tune to a forgotten 80s action TV show which follows a grizzled American detective who has emigrated to Japan to try to leave behind his guilt over his partner’s death. While there of course, he becomes embroiled in a war with the Yakuza and is employed by a futuristic tech company and given a sentient smart-arse hoverboard named WIPE to help him cut down on crime. What would such a show be called? Answers on a postcard.

As you may have guessed, I don’t have much to say about this one. It sounds like Big Trouble In Little China or Black Rain and though the song is five minutes long, it feels short and uneventful. This is maybe the song which took me the most listens before I got anything out of it. I’m heavily driven by melody and emotion, and this song didn’t leap out ay me from either of those respects. I’ll admit to be otherwise distracted in those first listens, but once it clicked with me I paid more attention to the plundering bass, the sound effects, and the anger. Not much else.

Reading the lyrics, Fish is pissed off about something again. Are there any songs where he’s not angry? It could be about a crumbling relationship again – with a partner, or it could be about his relationship to fans or the record company? He’s not happy and is placing himself or recognizing himself as being on a pedestal or as a target. The use of ‘harlequin’ makes me think of jesters and their tears. It’s all a little too cryptic for me, and because the song left me with a sense of blah, I wasn’t overly interested in Googling Torquemada. I wrote a song once which attempted to lampoon young lovers and their misguided obsession with each other… it was called… REALationships.

Apparently one of the songs made Sanja feel physically sick – that means it’s time now for me to hear Paul and Sanja’s thoughts on Side A. We start with a bit of a farewell to Fish as he has just released a solo manner, but has also released a bit of a… faux pas? An honest admission? I don’t know enough about the man and his writing and his life to know if he is on the Autism Spectrum. Plus, I am in no way qualified to speak about Autism. Some people have suggested I have traits, and I have friends who have been diagnosed. From what I know about Autism, and the wide Spectrum, there’s much more in the ‘no you’re not’ column, than ‘hmm, could be’. I think where Autism is concerned, people with a limited exposure or understanding just assume unusual behaviour – or behaviour they would see themselves doing – to be a signifier of Autism. But I know enough to know it’s something I have no understanding of, so I’m going to stop embarrassing myself now. But yeah – Fish, get on the podcast mate, sort it out.

Mick ‘Sisters’ Pointer left the band, Andy ‘Bill’ Ward joined and… wait, is Emerald Lies about Mick. John ‘I’m not a’ Martyr (sp?) joined too because Andy couldn’t cope…. a lot of drum changes a la Spinal Tap. Yes, the US version of the Manics The Holy Bible is noticeably beefier. The band had a crappy tour… all this perhaps informing the tonal direction of the album. This is the most 70s sounding podcast episode I’ve ever heard – all these blokes sharing tours and bands from the 70s. None of them have died yet? Not even a few of the drummers? Recording processes and how the band separates those feelings from the album is always interesting. St Anger? Let It Be? The Holy Bible – one of the most dark, bleak, powerful, upsetting  albums of all time – even recorded with the backdrop of Richey’s increasing alcoholic abuse, self-harming, anorexia, and stays in The Priory, is still spoken with fondness by the band when you’d assume it was one of those instances where the studio was haunted, burned down, and everyone hated each other.

Wrong band. Sanja thinks Assassing is about war, about words as weapons. Paul says yes, it’s the second part. It’s about the sacking of band members – I guess some of what I assumed the song was about is kind of correct. Why ‘assassing’? You’re all wrong – it’s just him turning the thing into a verb – instead of assassinating. Plus, Temple Of Doom is my favourite Indiana Jones movie. Paul makes a comparison with The Wall too, so I’m not on my own. Run Like Hell… a lot of the songs off that album do have a similar rhythm – makes it easier to smoosh them altogether in a coherent way. Watch those spoilers Biffo, I haven’t heard the second half of the album yet, but it’s clear the sound of the album is different from Script. Oh yes, the way Fish delivers ‘parading a Hollywood conscience’ has been grating on me, half singy, half talky. Anyway, they both love the song.

Punch & Judy. A straightforward song with an obvious theme. Fish is nervous about being trapped, fair enough. In the context of the album – yeah, it’s a more rock-oriented album, though Script does have that awesome transition into fist-pumping. Seems Punch & Judy shows are still a thing, somehow. Sausages, wife-beating, Satan – that about sums up Ol’ Blighty!

Sanja seems to have similar feelings to me on Jigsaw – musically lovely, lyrically less so. I have to stop telling people my dreams – I know it annoys people, but to be fair my dreams are awesome. Paul says the song is about not fully revealing yourself in a relationship, which makes sense in the context of the song and does lend another tragic layer to it – wouldn’t it be great if we could all just like, you know, fit? Oh, don’t they like Emerald Lies. Yikes, I’m conforming perfectly to everyone’s thoughts this time. Yay? They talk about the Production and tone of the album next, so I tune out a little in case there’s spoilers for Side B.

I’m sure there are people out there who like Emerald Lies – maybe not an all time favourite. I just couldn’t get into it. Even typing this I can’t remember much about it, but it’s been a few days since I last listened to it. Yes! Sanja is on board with the 80s TV soundtrack! I used to love MacGyver and would try to MacGyver through doorways – there was a bit in the opening credits where he slipped through a closing door, and I would copy this in School. Calm down, I was probably 9 or 10. Okay, Emerald, green, jealousy – I get it. Fine. Don’t care. And within thirty seconds of my typing that, Paul says ‘Emerald, green, jealousy’. I think I can check out now and go listen to Side B. Paul says he considered it a bottom three song, which bodes well for the quality of the songs I haven’t heard yet. I don’t think I’ll make this to 20 listens, though there are examples of Manics songs I have dismissed for years and eventually come round to liking a little more.

What will Side B bring? More 80s tinged rock, or a return to the more flighty and fantastical nature of the first album? I guess I’ll find out next time. And you can find out my thoughts on it by coming back next week!

Last Exit On Yesterday

Last Exit On Yesterday: 2/Okay

Another very early cut, this one feels like an improvement on the other stuff they were playing at the time, but when placed alongside the rest of the New Art Riot EP it’s quality is lacking. It has a clear structure, it has decent melodies, the usual lyrics (though you can’t make any of them out which means the Misheard Lyrics are particularly notable), but the vocals are weak, the drumming is robotic, and the guitars are standard punk simplicity.

Misheard Lyrics: Dance to the bad moon time/Dance to the bad mood town/Dance to the bathroom time

2: Ant, fin, back heels (?)/And the ankle/And to Frank Hill

3: Barely are things that I think/A million things in my sink/ The million things our eyes back seat.

4: Dying giant form

5: Roy and brink bock beak (?)

6: You’re screaming so much that I’m excited to breathe/that I’m excited to leave/that I feel sorry to leave/that I feel sorry to live/that I’ve been starting to drink/that life is starting to breed.

7: I wanna be cool and I wanna bleed your disease.

8: Pull your hair grow back/Pull you head glow band

9: Paying barber’s sons/Playing baubles sounds/Paying Barbara off (or any combination of these).

10: The bricky’s story on and on/The freaky story on and on/The Greek history on and on.

11: Loveless or loneness/Loveless our romance

12: Laugh in Justin’s face/Laugh at justice skill

13: As back brakes downstairs steeper in/As back sprain down steps deeper in (???)

14: Baby girl had a little bit of love/baby girl have a little bit of love/Baby can’t have a little bit of life

15: Cheek slapped up inside a leather glove/Cheap slap up inside her lover’s gun

16: Pacing up in her executive tower/Lacey for an executive talent

17: Sway to the sound of an uncapped lover/Tweet to the sign of a handicapped lover

18: So Doll’s in town, have his pretty face/Saw a doll in town, hurt its pretty face

19: Mixing juice is easy but you move first/Massachusetts easy when you are first.

 20: Laugh at the TV, empty sound of life, morning in town is not a good choice

Actual Lyrics: Dance to the valentine

2: Anthems that kill

3: Valium veins and eyes that sink

4: Lying down I want

5: Want a brainwash trip

6: You’re screaming so much that I feel sorry to breathe

7: I wanna feel cold and I wanna bleed your disease.

8: Hold your head up

9: And pray for sun

10: But rain keeps pouring on and on

11: Loveless aloneness

12: Life that just impales

13: As backs break thorns dig deeper in

14: Baby can’t have her little bit of love

15: Cos it’s wrapped up inside her lover’s gut

16: Lazy fat executive seller

17: Sway to the sound of another dead lover

18: So dull and tired of his pretty face

19: Makes the truth seems easy but you’ve lost

 20: Laugh at the TV, empty cell of life, mundane exile it’s not of your choice.

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Script For A Jester’s Tear (Side B)

Cover Art By Mark Wilkinson

Greetings, Glancers! I’m just going to jump right into this one without all the usual faff, because that faff balloons the already gorged content of my posts to debaucherously gargantuan levels. What do you call a debauched gargantuan? Simian Debussey. No, I don’t get it either.

Garden Party was a single, and Wikipedia tells me it reached 16 in the charts. For a 7 minute song, that’s not bad. You wouldn’t get that nowadays.  Today it’s all about sub 3 minutes jingles which need to have a ‘.feat’ accompanying the main artist. ‘Ho’s Party by DJ Mary Elle Lynn. feat Fish.’ This is getting awfully close to faff.

Garden Party then. Maybe the only thing sweet and pastoral about the track (beyond the title) is the birdsong which sporadically flutters about. Elsewhere, it’s another bitter song as Fish seems to be taking aim at – the upper class? Posh circles he may have experienced in his own life? Possibly the other posh Prog boys he maybe felt Otherness towards? Is it Royals or hangers-on (hanger-ons?), or is it just the well born blue and bred in general? I couldn’t hone in on precisely who or what he was targeting.

Those bird sounds do give a sense of calm, while melodically and musically it’s not as dark or frantic or downbeat as some Marillion material I’ve heard. Before I checked out the lyrics, it felt like a more positive song than The Web. However, that staccato beat seems deliberately robotic as if to hint at the conforming, repetitive, perpetuating nature of the wealthy class and their behaviour. More likely I’m reading far too much into things. There’s a little blink and you’ll miss it extra pause after the first three synth/drum blasts and before the final three. There’s a little extra pause between the first three synth/drum blasts. If you don’t hear it…  it would be easier to explain if you could hear me, but instead of going ‘dum dum dum – dum dumdumdum’ like it should, it goes ‘dum dum dum – – dum dumdumdum’. Do you see?

In fact, the whole song has lots of little unusual time signature hiccups which must make the thing a bastard to play live. While it’s not the most expansive or complex song in the grand scheme of Progressive singles, this doesn’t feel like a single. Sure, there are hooks, but there is a lot of jumping around and plenty of instrumental sections – the bane of chart radio. Possibly the single was cut down for Radio purposes – a la Light My Fire. Fish is being even more theatrical than usual, rolling every ‘r’, sneering, sighing, and possibly collapsing over a Chaise Longue with a damp cloth atop his brow. I kept having visions of Morrissey while listening to this one, cycling with a pansy in his lapel on his way to a Britain’s First picnic or some such.

In the middle of the song there’s a tasty Synth solo. This is in lieu of the more traditional guitar solo which, as a guitar fan and player I am naturally more drawn to – I don’t mind the occasional synth solo but they usually need to be exceptional to make an impact on me, God knows why. I must be a guitar Neanderthal. While I didn’t find it the most exciting song musically or melodically, I still found myself humming it over the weekend and cutting cheese to the staccato rhythm. That was not a euphemism, though can you imagine?

Lyrically, well it’s all very ironic and cynical isn’t it? He peppers the song with more puns and wordplay – not as much fun as on Charting The Single, but a few of them are amusing. Reading the lyrics doesn’t truly offer me any further insight as to Fish’s prey this time around, but I imagine there’s a good ol’ story behind it all. I’ll leave it to Paul and Sanja to share.

Chelsea Monday is the song which most reminded me of Pink Floyd, or some of the more talkative moments off something like Operation Mindcrime. It has snippets of soundbites and speech and effects and English accents. It’s a song of few transitions in tone or time signature, but isn’t any less interesting than the more complicated tracks. It doesn’t become tedious over its 8 minutes, mainly due to the articulate atmosphere which tows the line between chilled and threatening. The guitar solo towards the end – I don’t want to say it’s similar to Dave Gilmour solos – but that was the first reference point I could come up with so I’m sticking with it. The dude (checking name again), Steve Rothery plays with a similar elongated tone and emotive quality as Gilmour on this song at least. The sounds in the intro remind me of Welcome To The Machine, while the speaking near the end are pure Dark Side Of The Moon. 

This one I liked a lot. I haven’t quite stopped calling it Chelsea Morning, which is a Joni Mitchell song, but it isn’t one which needed to grow on me – I clicked with it from the first listen, usually a sign that the song will become a favourite. The creeping bass riff, the searing guitar bends, and the more subtle vocals combine to create a picture of – I’m not quite sure yet. When I think of the term Chelsea Monday in terms of the atmosphere crafted by the music, I get images of exhausted, paranoid rock stars waking the morning after in some luxury room, coke crumbs dusting a glass table, half empty bottles of Jack and Champers dripping on a Persian rug, and perhaps the odd groupie dead in the tub. All images from bad movies no doubt.

I stayed in a hotel in Chelsea once – there was a bit of a mix-up with our Breakfast (and there was blood in the bed when we arrived, but that seems to be par for the course for us when we stay anywhere that isn’t our own house) and the manager chased us down the street after we checked out, visibly frothing as he apologised and offered to appease us by shoving a bottle of wine into our hands. That’s all well and good, but as you can see we are each dragging a suitcase and have no free hands – could you please uncork it and pour it into my mouth while I stand here avoiding the seagulls?

Reading the lyrics, it becomes obvious quickly that the song isn’t about the band, or rock stars, but instead seems to be a certain type of lady – maybe one woman specifically. A few years ago you may have called them WAGs. It’s about a woman who is dealing in, or forced to deal in deceit and ass-kissing and social climbing to get to where she wants to be – presumably a position of wealth, fame, and power. Although it seems cynical in the beginning there is a tenderness to the lyrics and many of the metaphors used suggest fragility, innocence, and desperation – the song becomes less about a fame hungry woman but more about the tragedy of the lengths people may have to go to while chasing an honest dream. It becomes more apparent, and more tragic within the concluding spoken section as we learn in tabloid whispers that the woman drowned. She’s famous now. I’m curious to learn if this one was based on any true life figure or if it’s another imagining based on a collage of people. I just realised Chelsea Monday could be a person’s name. In any case, great song.

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

Forgotten Sons closes the album – it’s another eight minute track, and one of the heaviest on the album. There’s quite a lot of funky chord carnage, squealing solos, and flickers to lend a chaotic twist, there’s what seems to be Text To Speech and later there is militaristic shouting – all of which contributes to this feeling heavy, if not Metal. I particularly enjoyed the drums throughout this one – a lot of the tonal shifts are naturally driven by the percussion but the drum work stood out for me over most of the other songs. During the militaristic shouting section, there’s a nice surge of backing orchestration but rather than building to some explosive finish the song goes off in a more soothing direction for the finish. Soothing isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s accentuated by another one of those smooth Gilmour-esque solos and a more relaxed, toned down rhythm and percussion section than anything else in the song. From the very jaunty opening which sees Fish going all in with his theatrical tics alongside a bouncing, giddy synth, to the snazzy guitar and Text To Speech middle piece, this song was much more of a grower on me. On first listen it didn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion to the record, but I’ve come around on it in subsequent listens.

Being a lad from Northern Ireland, my first instinct on hearing ‘Armalite’ and ‘sniper’ in the opening verse was to make for under the table and phone the filth. Those were some of the small handful of lyrics I caught on first spin and given the album was released at the height of ‘The Troubles’ it seemed reasonable to assume the song was in part alluding to what was going on with the IRA et al. By the end of the song though, the lyrics seemed to cover over topics such as disillusionment, shitty parenting, the media, and organized religion. All of those can be connected quite easily to the topic of our silly little civil war, but just as easily it could be about some other riot or dispute or uprising I’m unaware of.

Having then gone back and read the lyrics, I’m guessing my original assumption was more accurate than I expected – ‘Emerald Aisle/isle’ is mentioned, kids being drafted into the Army (or alternatively a terrorist group) is a blatantly called out topic, and the whole song is punctured by violent allusions and language. A problem I’ve always had with songs which mention this conflict is that inevitably writers tend to pick sides – even from well-meaning pap released by the likes of Lennon and McCartney – which simplifies a battlefield history so strewn with misdirects, overlaps, and bullshit that any single truth is nigh-on impossible to grasp for long. If this is what Forgotten Sons is about, then it takes the seemingly more mature, even respectful approach by admitting there are no sides – only grief and pointless death. Hell, even saying that could get you kneecapped here. Yay!

It’s at this point in my post that I take a pause from the music and head off to listen to what Paul and Sanja make of it all. As always, any comments I make on the Podcast episode will likely be jumbled and less coherent than the mess I’ve already scribbled above. Paul used to invite his friends round to listen to Marillion. In my day it was Nirvana and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Then later it would simply be 6 hour sessions of Goldeneye and Diddy Kong Racing. Paul does admit he thinks the first song is a very strange song to have hit so high in the charts – something I mentioned somewhere miles above, but he then says the song was more about one of Fish’s girlfriends changing into a bit of a posho after going to Cambridge. To be fair, any of my friends (acquaintances) who went to Cambridge were already poshos. Sanja loves this one, and it seems like it’s still a live fan favourite. There’s some single Artwork, so I’d better check it out. It’s another shifty, psychotic jester holding a blade and a cucumber. Why he’s scalped a dinosaur and is doing a Davey Crockett with it is anyone’s guess. I wouldn’t have known that was a cucumber from the artwork – it’s more accurately just a big green… thing.

I have never named a car… or anything really. I named my cats and children, that’s about as far as I would go. Interesting that they changed up the drummer – I mentioned this song (and much of Side 2) has a lot of tricky drum parts which would be a pain in the arse performing live. I was wondering if I would ‘need’ to watch the videos. Sometimes videos let me down, especially when they’re from a band known for being artistic. Like my beloved Manic Street Preachers – as intelligent and well-read and well versed in art and literature and ideas as they are… their videos are balls. Parkes with an ‘e’ – I forgot to Google him. Paul raises an interesting one – there are plenty of songs and bands I love because they struck at the right time in my life, and upon re-evaluation they’re not as interesting or impactful or ‘good’. However, I tend towards still enjoying songs I once loved even as I recognise them as not being very good, but in general the bands I loved in my early days are bands I still adore now.

Sanja doesn’t sound like she enjoys Chelsea Monday much, but does enjoy the intro. She mentions the song feeling overly wordy – I think I’d be more shocked if the song wasn’t wordy. Paul doesn’t like this one – interesting – and that seems to be opposite from most Marillion fans. Given that I have no idea what Marillion fans like this is all interesting for me. Looks like I’m on the majority side here as the song was probably my second favourite. I should probably remind readers that I do look the old dirge – I wouldn’t call this a dirge in the negative sense – and I did find it one of the more emotive songs. Maybe the association to Genesis has added to Paul’s dislike of the song, while I’ve just heard it for the first time with no such association. Or maybe he just doesn’t like it. We can agree to disagree here, definitely one of my favourites. I never liked V For Vendetta like all the naughty little rebel boys did.

Onto the final track, and as anticipated the song is about ‘The Troubles’ but more concerned with the kids being sent off to die because they had no other prospects and the politicians convinced them that it was a glorious, heroic thing to do. A bit of the old Dulce et decorum est about it all then, and sadly fuck all has changed since WWI. Go and watch the movie ‘71, which is set in Belfast and follows a young soldier abandoned by his regiment in the midst of a riot – it’s great, and just about the most tonally accurate movie about the whole nonsense that I’ve seen. Hell, I grew up in the 80s and 90s in the middle of it all, and I still felt removed from it. I was never shot. My town was only (completely) destroyed by a bomb once. You get used to whatever your environment is. I missed the bit about the brick while typing, need to go back and listen. Hey, growing up here – even now, having a brick or indeed a shoe or a bottle thrown at you is not unusual, if you hang around certain areas. I quite enjoyed the anger in the lyrics and it did feel convincingly personal. I haven’t had many issues with any of the lyrics so far – possibly because the bar is set so low lyrically by most bands that anything with a sprinkle of artistry seems close to genius. Incidentally, I don’t have an issue per se with artists writing about a conflict or an issue that they have no first hand experience with… but if you’re going to do it, be prepared for the backlash. By all means do it, but most conflicts are such a clusterfuck that you’re never going to please everyone. Look at the stuff with Roger Waters and the Middle East. Nah, I’d rather not. Still, like I say, I feel that Fish took the right approach with the song – anyone can agree, or most can agree, that going to war isn’t the nicest thing.

There we go. My thoughts on the album? I mean, read everything above if you really want to again. I’ll probably listen to it again, but I see only Chelsea Monday and the title track staying with me – maybe one or two of the others will continue to grow on me. It’s a fine first album – Paul has said the band changes a little after this release. Plenty of bands get much better, plenty get worse or stop. Using the two artists I’ve mentioned most in these posts – Iron Maiden’s first album isn’t that great, while Generation Terrorists by the Manics has plenty of classics but in some ways doesn’t sound like anything else they would do afterwards. The cover art is cool, better now that some of the details I missed were pointed out – without having a big vinyl in front of me it’s hard to get the full impact. Next time is… Fugazi? That’s a band.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Script For A Jester’s Tear!

Love’s Sweet Exile

Love’s Sweet Exile: 2/Okay

Another song which I’ve always felt could have been cut from Generation Terrorists, even though it’s a clear centrepiece and a distillation of what the band was all about at the time. The lyrics are fine, the spitting slogans about alienation, angst, the video provocative in its sexuality. The music is certainly heavy enough and there are hundreds of different guitar parts zooming around, including a singularly brilliant solo – it just feels too chaotic and in the end becomes boring – none of the melodies speak to me, I don’t particularly enjoy the vocals, and the drums feel too static.

Misheard Lyrics: We buried the woman, it’s a faker world too.

2: Classify machines that were understood

3: City reflections for our misery

4: Rain down any nation

5: You no factor love of everything inside

6: Everything immediate becomes destroyed

7: These two moons can’t wait for us to breathe.

Actual Lyrics: We blur into images of state coercion. 

2: Classified machines die misunderstood

3: City reflections pour out misery

4: Rain down alienation

5: Unified collapse of everything inside

6: Everything of meaning becomes destroyed

7: There’s too much concrete for us to breathe.