Best Writing (Original) – 1983

Official Nominations: Tender Mercies. The Big Chill. Fanny & Alexander. Silkwood. WarGames.

Not the most exciting list of films this year, but lets always applaud originality where we can. Tender Mercies picked up the win this year, the tale of an alcoholic cowboy turning his life around thanks to the love of a good woman. It’s more nuanced than the standard sort of fare you expect from the simple synopsis. The Big Chill is this year’s hangout movie, following on from Diner. It’s another of those ‘ensemble old friends get together after years apart’ movies, but it’s one of the best. Fanny & Alexander is 1982 and can be ignored, Silkwood probably shouldn’t be here either given that it’s essentially an adaptation of the Silkwood book, while WarGames may be the only truly original screenplay here predicting the role technology and computers would play in warfare in the decades to come.

My Winner: The Big Chill.

How Lawrence Kasdan Truly Feels About The Idea Of A Big Chill Sequel

My Nominations: The Big Chill. WarGames. Return Of The Jedi. Brainstorm. The Man With Two Brains. Trading Places. Videodrome.

Two make it over to my list to join a variety of comedies and Sci-fi films. Return Of The Jedi is that rare beast – a satisfying end to a trilogy. Even as it ties off all our loose ends and answers all our questions, it still introduces new characters, worlds, and ideas to enrich the universe and gives us some more iconic pieces of dialogue. Brainstorm gets another nomination for me for its creativity and ideas, while The Man With Two Brains is a fun idea making fun of other tropes and cliches which have existed in Cinema for many decades. Trading Places was one of those movies which could only be made in the 80s – the environment of Reagan politics, greed, and Capitalism becoming the real American Dream was set up for a story like this, and you had a cast who could authentically pull the humour off. Finally, if it’s creativity and originality you’re looking for in a screenplay, looks no further than Videodrome. It may border on incomprehensible, but its strokes are broad enough that we are pulled in on a first watch and enticed to uncover additional hidden delights on subsequent viewings.

My Winner: Videodrome.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 2 (Part 4)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! This is surely the last part now, right? We only have a couple more songs to cover. I hope Marillion had the foresight to give their next album a one word, one syllable album name so that I don’t have to type a similar monstrosity as my blog post title. No more balls, let us get to it.

Especially True has a nifty opening, a guitar attack which isn’t complex or particularly aggressive, yet ticks more boxes than WIWWY. The verses are a more withdrawn affair, and once again where we expect there to be a chorus we instead get a… louder verse? Whatever you call each part, I enjoy them both. It’s a song which seems to be caught in two worlds – the lyrics alluding to the USA while the vocals are very exaggerated in an English way almost as it H is aping Liam Gallagher or some other Britpop boy. There’s that drawling, curling of the vowel sounds so that ‘cliche’ becomes ‘CLEE-SHAY-EE’ and ‘USA’ becomes ‘USAAY-EE’. There’s a brief, quieter interlude which leads into the song’s final driving minute or so. This second half, even though it too has a slow tempo, feels more potent, urgent, and rocking than WIWWY while being led by a solid riff but lacking anything notable from the vocal melodies. It’s one of those songs that I enjoy when I hear it, but instantly forget it when it’s done.

I enjoyed the lyrics to Especially True once I read them in black and white -I didn’t think I would given what I imagined to be a lot of slang an cultural references while listening to the song. It’s a lyric which is conversational yet poetic, poetic yet not obtuse, it makes references with feeling like a catalogue, and it clearly gets its point about alienation across. As my old Latin teacher used to say, it scans very nicely. You can read the lyrics out loud, and it has that poetic rhythm allowing the words to roll off the tongue effortlessly. If I’m being picky… and I’m sure there’s a reason they picked ‘Yorkshore’, but on reading that line it feels like a one syllable place name would have fit better from a rhythmic perspective. If that’s my only criticism, then we’re in a good place. No matter, we can counter such ‘rhythms as read’ easily in song by adding another beat or stretching the music to allow for more space. As for what it’s all about? There’s the alienation we mentioned, there’s the confidence in overcoming what seemed alien and scary. I know it’s not the case, but it almost feels a little like a song which is aiming at winning over an American audience – the whole ‘America I’m ready for you’ is the sort of thing a teenage, debut album, first tour wannabe might be thinking. Is that what the song is recalling – H’s first time in America? I’m sure the guys will fill us in.

We close on the near-anthemic Real Tears For Sale, a song with a guitar sound and an overall tone which reminded me of Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Californication. We aren’t treated to any more H rapping, and it’s far from funk, but it has a similar minor key melancholy and yearning chorus. It would have been a solid candidate for a single if they trimmed down that 7 minute run-time, and like any number of Marillion songs it feels like it was written and released too late. This would have fit nicely in that post-Grunge Millennium-uncertain era of the late 90s, early 2000s. By 2008 that era, and the rock music which came with it, was long gone.

The build-up to the chorus has enough intrigue and tension that the release of the chorus is solid, but it’s a shame that the chorus is lacking something I can’t put my finger on. It’s just the name of the song repeated, which isn’t a problem in itself, but there’s some repetition or dullness of melody which doesn’t quite capture the anthemic nature I think they’re going for. It’s not a chorus that pulls me in and encourages me to sing along with fists in the air. It almost gets there, but not quite. Maybe it works for others, and I’m sure if I was hearing it live I’d get swept along by the vibe and the crowd.

Trimming to make a radio-friendly single would of course mean that much of the middle section, or the entirety of the second half would be edited out. The middle section is a little too empty and drifting for my tastes. The piano takes on a near Harp quality, there are swelling waves of percussion and layers of guitars which come and go. I’ve never been a fan of the effect which makes vocals sound like they’re coming from the other side of a tunnel – too much distance and reverb – H has a bit of this here before instrumentation begins to build up again. This build up is strong, and the payoff of the chorus returning is decent, capped off with Rothers tearing it up. Musical genius that I am, gatekeeper of all this is objectively correct, I would have trimmed up to a minute of that middle.

Reading the lyrics, I was reminded of Brave and its central character, at least in the first part of the song before it seems to switch over to H’s perspective. Here we seem to have another girl who has led a difficult life, but no matter how much she has been battered or changed herself or sold herself, there’s still a person with feelings and inherent value underneath. She is then compared to H, the performer who has had a life in the spotlight,  given himself up to vices, and felt the consequences. The pain he felt was turned to verse, to art, to something which others can consume but even though those feelings were made solid and sent out into the world, their spectral origins stayed within their host. Is there bitterness that such a thing is possible, that people pay to hear, see, and own these tears? In any case, there is anger, as epitomised by the closing verse and repetitions. It’s perhaps interesting that this song, with those lines, is what closes the album. Take from that what you will; maybe it’s meaningless, maybe it leaves us in a dark place, or maybe it is an attempt to close the book on those feelings and move on.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

We jump over to hear what the World’s Second Most Popular Marillion Podcast has to say about it all. A choice of jackets to wear while walking between tents, it seems. It’s snowing here in the North of the North – not as much as last week, not as much as in January, but a light, wet dusting. Just do what I do – wear two t-shirts, then strip one off mid gig. Then strip the other off too, and get thrown out. While I’m not going to a gig, my flight to Menorca is in the AM this year. For the first time, we’re going to drive on the day rather than stay over at the airport hotel the night before. Saves a bit of money, but adds a bit of stress. What if we wake up late, what if the car breaks down, what if a Godzilla attacks us on the way – the usual.

Sanja assumed from the rock opening of Especially True that she wouldn’t like it, but that turned out to not be the case. She likes it, she even likes the guitar (electric), and she thinks it’s one of their better, heavier songs. Paul compares it to WIWWY and says this is a better attempt at that style. I did see that Heart Shaped Box comment on Twitter and I can see where the comparison is coming from, but I can’t say I felt it. It doesn’t have the full on quiet/loud dynamic and it doesn’t have the darkness, anguish, or the fury. Maybe that doesn’t detract from what Marillion intended though. Regardless, I encourage everyone to listen to Heart Shaped Box, a song which may be my least favourite off my favourite Nirvana album.

Especially True just has more to it for Paul – more melody, more depth, more variance. He then makes the point which I made somewhere up above about Marillion being influenced by other music a little too late. It seems like Paul isn’t going to shed any light on the lyrics beyond his interpretation. Before then, Sanja says it feels like a song about being a tourist in the US. Fair enough. Sanja says sometimes the US feels culturally alien, often moreso than non-English speaking countries. I think we’re all conditioned to love America, such is the influence of their culture on us from the moment we’re born. I’m no different – when I played with my friends when we were young, invariably we would adopt American accents and the game would be somehow related to guns and bad guys. I’d love nothing more to be a rich XYZ and spend a year driving from State to State, eating shite, seeing the sights, going to all the theme parks. This doesn’t mean we can’t, or that I don’t criticize the place and some of its people. Any time I’ve been there, it feels a little like home, but taken to extremes in different directions. Everything’s bigger, louder, more annoying, more exciting. Seriously though, sort out those toilet stall gaps, what the fuck is wrong with you?

I’m in a job where I work with Americans every day, many of them are my friends, and I’ve been drunk with them both in the US and in Northern Ireland. It’s always interesting to hear what people think of my part of the world, but typically it falls into two categories; those who bunch NI and The Republic together and assume we’re the same, and those who know a little of the history and are somewhat apprehensive to bring it up in conversation or are actively scared of us until they see we’re just people too. For anyone reading – I personally don’t care if the North and South unite in the future. At one time I would have stated a preference for remaining as is, but with the state of the Tories, the disaster of Brexit, and my personal disdain for the Monarchy, I’d be more than happy to be a United Ireland once more. It’s amusing attempting to explain a fraction of our history, The Troubles, any of it really to whoever may ask, but I have heard some truly bizarre things from both my colleagues and people I’ve met on my travels. One person was absolutely bewildered that we had electricity (in the 2000s), another was amazed that most families had cars, a couple didn’t believe me when I said that we didn’t live in thatch houses. I’ve been asked how many times I’ve been shot (less than the average American), how many times I’ve been arrested, and whether or not it’s safe to go out at night/wearing US colours/alone, and what to say when kidnapped. It’s cool, we know what the world thinks of us, and we think less of ourselves.

In essence, Paul says the song is about alienation. I wasn’t sure about that ‘England below’ line, but I took the same meaning as the guys do, but elsewhere the song remains a mystery. Which is fine. That leads into Lucy’s favourite song, Real Tears For Sale. I’m of the opposite opinion of Sanja in that I prefer the first half. Or maybe, I like the first third, the last third, but could do without the middle. The second half definitely expands upon the first and improves upon the chorus. Paul re-iterates that he doesn’t mind when Marillion play heavier, but that it works best when the thing still has a tune. I agree. I listen to a lot of Metal, some even on the more extreme end, but my favourites always retain an overt melodic quality. I hesitate to use the word ‘Pop’, but look at some of my long-term favourite heavy bands – Metallica, Iron Maiden, and while we’re on the topic, Nirvana. Strip away the distortion and the harsh edges, and many of the songs are, for lack of a better term, Pop. There’s a reason why those guys sold so massively and have lasted the distance, over and above their peers. Their songs were simply better, more memorable, more catchy.

Lyrically, Paul says it’s another one about fame. He says it’s inspired by Britney Spears, which makes sense given the head-shaving line. I didn’t notice that, but then it has been a long time since that incident and she’s not someone whose life or music I have paid much attention to. Does the connection to Brave still work? More importantly, it’s about H too, which leads us into a discussion on sharing our personal thoughts, something which often seems to put people off. I’ve never had an issue with sharing my own thoughts on feelings, perhaps odd because I’m a pretty quiet person, but I’ve never felt uncomfortable talking about how I feel. I am conscious that this does often make the listener uncomfortable, so I only do it around ‘the right person’. Or on this blog. Incidentally, the few times I do write about this stuff on my blog is usually in response to BYAMPOD. Buy one therapy get one free, I guess. I understand there’s still this stigma about blokes shouldn’t talk about emotions which, in my experience comes from women almost as much as men, but that in today’s world it’s more common and ‘acceptable’ to do it than when I was a teenager. I’ve always been a big feely boy though, when I want to be. Like they say on social media, if you don’t care, keep scrolling.

I’d be curious to see if there are Marillion fans, long term ones I suppose, who don’t pay attention to the lyrics at all. Are there fans who listen to Marillion and think ‘oh shut up, you Woke Nancy Boy’? There probably are, but to me that’s bizarre. I’ve never understood people who can claim to be a fan of a certain type of artist when that artist leans one way when the fan goes the opposite way. I can understand that you might enjoy a catchy song or two, but to call yourself a fan, to spend money and support the band, to travel to see them live? Especially when it’s not exactly a mainstream artist. You see this more often when the artist is more successful – you can’t scroll through an artist’s latest social post without seeing the now infamous ‘they should stick to music and forget about politics’. I don’t get it. I get why people feel this way, but I don’t understand how they do. How do you get to that point in your life, what turns in life, in logic, gets you to being a fan of an artist but attacking them for something they’ve probably always believed or supported. Taking the Manics as an example close to my own heart – a famously left-leaning, notoriously political, feminist, androgynous, working class band – they still get comments by people claiming to have been fans from the early days and attacking their thoughts on X, when X has been a thing they’ve always talked about.

What are we talking about again? Whores? The Manics? That line stuck at as something which seemed out of place rather than non-PC, but I mostly took it as a ‘this is what society says’ line rather than H or Britney or whoever saying it themselves. Maybe it was supposed to be shocking. Manics, feminist as they are, also used the word back in the 90s when it was in more regular rotation – junkies, winos, whores/the nation’s moral suicide. Then again, that song is titled Of Walking Abortion which is about as shocking a title as you could find nowadays. Is Real Tears For Sale more about these feelings being cheapened when they’re sold, when they’re performed ad nauseum? Sanja doesn’t think there’s any judgement in it, while Paul says it starts out as a media-blaming song and ends up being more about H and his own feelings on fame and the impact it has had on him.

With that, we are finally done with this feckin’ album. I’m going to move on to a new album now, but it’s not Marillion, it’s some 2020 thing called Pop Smoke. Don’t know anything about it. Then on to Less Is More, it seems. Normally at this point for this kind of album, I would ask what Paul and Sanja’s ideal Single album track-list would be, but I think it would just be Volume 1 as it is. Let me know if that’s the case. I said way back in my first Volume 2 post that I don’t think there’s anything strong enough to make it on to Volume 1, but I’d probably change that opinion now. I didn’t love Volume 1 as much as Paul and Sanja do, and wouldn’t have any issue if one or two of Volume 2’s tracks snuck their way into Volume 2. Would they work along with the tone and vibe of Volume 1 – maybe not? If we look at other Capital D Double Albums which you can buy separately – Use Your Illusion being maybe the most famous example – you can pick and choose your favourites from each album to make your own single, standalone thing. When I wrote my Favourite Songs By Manics Album posts, I did a similar exercise where I made my own ideal tracklist of each album by cutting out the crap I didn’t like, and adding in the B-Sides or rarities released around the same time to make something superior in my eyes. In this day and age of playlists, it’s even easier to curate your own version of any album, your own greatest hits, and completely ignore everything else. What a time to be alive.

Next time around it’ll be a new album! Until then, comment, share, like, subscribe, check out BYAMPOD, and do all the other things. That Mind Furniture song was cool too, with a touch of Rush/Coheed & Cambria thrown in.

Best Supporting Actress – 1983

Official Nominations: Linda Hunt. Cher. Glenn Close. Amy Irving. Alfre Woodward.

Linda Hunt picked up a deserving win this year – except for the fact that The Year Of Living Dangerously was a 1982 movie and therefore she’s not in for my consideration. Cher picked up her first nomination as Karen Silkwood’s roommate in Silkwood – it wasn’t her first performance, but it was certainly her first serious role and her breakthrough as an actress. Glenn Close is always good and may be the standout actress in The Big Chill, while Amy Irving received the pre-requisite Musical Acting nomination for Yentl. Finally, Alfre Woodward received her first and so far only Oscar nomination for Cross Creek. 

My Winner: Cher

Silkwood (1983)

My Nominations: Cher. Glenn Close. Meg Tilly. Louise Fletcher. Susan Sarandon. Barbara Hershey. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

Only Cher and Close make it over to my personal list. From The Big Chill, joining Close, is Meg Tilly as the younger newbie of the group. Louise Fletcher perhaps should have made my Best Actress list instead as she is a lead within the cast of Brainstorm. It’s arguably her best performance, although most people will understandably point to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The sad fact is that a film called Brainstorm would never be allowed anywhere near The Oscars.

Elsewhere, Susan Sarandon is a standout alongside Bowie and Deneuve in The Hunger, Barbara Hershey deserves a nod alongside all the men in The Right Stuff, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is the sole innocent voice in the midst of all the chaos and debauchery in Scarface. 

My Winner: Louise Fletcher

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Volume 2 (Part 3)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with (maybe?) the final part of our Happiness Is The Road listenthrough. There’s still quite a few songs to talk about, but with Paul and Sanja heading off to see the band in… I want to say The Netherlands… they might want to wrap up this album so we’re nicely set up for whatever comes next. Luckily, I have already finished my thoughts on the final songs so all that remains is for me to commentate on the latest BYAMPOD episode. Elsewhere, I’m listening to a few more of the Non-Iron Maiden albums which the Iron Maiden boys have made, and finishing off my reviews of the best albums of 2020. Let’s get to it.

Throw Me Out transitions in very neatly from Older Than Me, helped by the fact that the songs are equally paced. This is also something of a hinderance because it highlights the aforementioned potentially dull qualities of the previous song. Two slow, sleepy songs in a row has the potential to bring an album’s energy down, but if done well it also has the potential of being a little highlight section. Throw Me Out is a more musically dynamic song than Older Than Me, and is another short song. Together, they largely avoid becoming the mid-album dirge which they risk becoming. The organ in the intro makes me think… France? The violin, or synth violins, the spiky guitar jabs, the horns or clarinets, all add depth and flavour, and for the second song in a row the backing vocals are of the breathy, sighing nature. I’d like to say it’s another song which has a bit of a Beatles feel to it, Sgt Pepper era, but it’s maybe not as overt as in other songs.

Lyrically, the most interesting thing to say may be that this song comes straight after Older Than Me. One song is about being in love with someone and seemingly stable and at peace, while this one is the complete opposite. Throw Me Out, as the title suggests, is about the collapse of a relationship. There’s a lot of blaming – blaming the other side (you threw me out of my life), blaming the self (I tore apart my oldest friend), and what comes across as passive aggression and self-pity (don’t worry babe, I’m recyclable). I like the use of language here – it’s simply, but effective. ‘Throw Me Out’ is a term which has always inspired some sort of fear in me. I can’t see it’s an exclusively British term, but growing up with shows like Eastenders and Corrie where marriages were constantly falling apart, that phrase was in regular usage and would strike a chilling gash if heard in my own house from a parent or relative. This use of common phrases is played again and again ‘two’s a crowd’ a clever derivative of ‘three’s a crowd’. We all know what ‘three’s a crowd’ means, so dropping it down to the binary makes it somehow more sinister and ugly. ‘No more trouble, no more strife’, is of course a play on ‘trouble and strife’ being slang for ‘wife’. There is also a thread of futility and meaninglessness to it all – like all of the things which caused this break are unwarranted or fixable – the use of ‘seem’, ‘opening drawers’, ‘making a mess when you’re trying to clean’. Those individual phrases we could easily break down further to speak about the narrator’s confusion or inability to recognize either the impact that these things had over time, or that these are not at all the reasons for the break but simply the only things he could come up with afterwards. We could ask if those phrases are not merely literal. In fact, this is perhaps a song which could be used in a GCSE poetry exam as there are so many ways to pull it apart.

One final point to mention is something which maybe other people haven’t caught. I could be entirely wrong, and it could be entirely meaningless anyway, but listen to how H sings, how he mouths ‘you seem to want’. Catch anything? Listen to how he phrases the final half of ‘want’. Hear it? He’s smiling. That phrasing and sound is only produced by singing the world while smiling, while stretching your mouth a certain way. It’s very subtle and if you’re not hearing it, that’s fine. Maybe it’s in my head, but I’ve listened to that section over and over and it 100% sounds like he deliberately smiled on that word. Was it for a theatrical reason? Was it to add a little more spite to the tone? Or was it simply because Rothers happened to walk past the recording booth with 500g of Lurpak?

Half The World brings a spell of warmth after two musically or lyrically cold songs. This is a lighter, brighter song. It feels like a summery, and it reminds me of some of Marillion’s previous songs which evoke driving with the top down beside a beach on a summer’s day. I’m happy to be completely wrong about this, but the ‘do do do’ section sounded very familiar to me when I first listened to the song. Either I’ve somehow heard the song before – maybe it came on as a shuffle track while I was typing up notes from a previous album (thought usually when that happens I hit pause and don’t listen), or I’m imagining it. Perhaps I’m confusing it with something similar, or maybe the song has been used in some TV show or advert. Being used in a TV ad was my first assumption, but then the reality of Marillion being used in a TV advert hit me and sounded unlikely.

With its bright and melodic chorus and its ‘do do do’s, it feels like a single. It doesn’t have the potential of being a smash hit, but you get the sense that if they’d written this song for a new artist or if some new solo performer or random pop act had released this as their first single, it could have made the top 20. Released at the right time, with the right pretty face, I see no reason why this couldn’t have received some radio play and a spot on TOTP. The band sound relaxed, H takes a breezy, laidback approach to the vocals and sounds smooth from top to bottom, and the harmonies in the chorus work as well as any factory made pop hit. There’s not much of a guitar solo to speak of, but there is plenty of layering and Rothers effectively suits the needs of the song again without giving in to any temptation to fire off any unnecessary twiddling.

I’ve mentioned serving the needs of the song a few times already, but that’s exactly what the lyrics do. The song feels summery and evokes carefree driving – the first line is almost literally that vibe put to words. There’s a bit of the old Irish ‘may the road rise to meet you’ to the sentiment. I half-expected more cynicism to be apparent in the lyrics when I read the ‘boy you choose to live with’ line, like the narrator is the jilted lover hoping for some vengeance to befall the ex, but it never comes. The song never becomes dark, it avoids being self-pitying, there’s none of the finger-pointing we’ve seen in other lyrics. It’s stays sweet and genuine throughout, with the narrator hoping only for good things and that maybe one day the two can be friends one day. I am of course positioning the narrator as the person who was jilted, but there’s nothing to suggest this is the case. It could equally be that H (lets not say ‘narrator) was the one doing the jilting and is hoping that one day the ex can forgive him or not be angry anymore. The ‘friends’ line is usually the sort of thing someone says when they break up with someone. In reality, based on what we have learned of H’s relationships through his lyrics, it seems more likely that he was not the one to end the relationship. It’s a simple, sweet lyric, and my only final comment is to say that I thought the chorus began ‘beautiful girl’, not ‘you’re a girl’. My ears don’t work sometimes.

We reach Whatever Is Wrong With You, a song which Paul has given his infamous ‘steamer’ label to. Honestly, I don’t get it. I can see if from Paul’s perspective; he doesn’t like when Marillion tries to do a traditional rock song. There’s usually one or two of these on each Marillion album and I don’t see this as much better or worse than any of the others. It’s not as overt an assault on the ears as Most Toys and if anything the only criticism I have for it is that it’s too slow for what its trying to achieve. Paul had mentioned on a previous episode that H, and the rest of the band sound like they sleepwalk through their performances, that the performances are laboured. Some of that likely comes down to the pacing, and H doesn’t exactly give it any welly, but considering the pacing of most other songs on this album, and on many of Marillion’s albums, the only crime seems to be that the crank up the volume and distortion without getting any payoff. For me, it needs to be faster. It doesn’t have a lot of edge. If the intention was to make this ‘the rock song’, then fucking go for it. It’s barely over three minutes long as it is, so crank it up, warm up those biceps and play the thing like it should be a two minute punk song.

I don’t think the song is bad, setting the performances aside. If you play it faster, it has more impact, but if you completely took the guitars out and made this a piano led song it would work just as well. Taking the softer approach, you could even slow the pace further and get some joy. I enjoyed the melodies in the verses and chorus – even the pre-chorus – I think I said in a previous post that this was the only song with a standout melody to me when I first listened to Volume 2. The only moment I found myself humming afterwards was this chorus. It’s a very simple song – there’s no getting away from its traditional verse chorus verse structure and some very static drumming, and there are no surprises, tonal or key changes. But that’s fine. For a band that I have accused of often sticking to one thing in an album and never having any oomph, I can give them credit for having a placeholder for that oomph moment, even if they feel to pull it off.

It looks like this was the single for the album, so I can understand why they didn’t go all out. For me, there are better singles and this could have been the unashamed ‘we’re still young and can still rock’ moment, had they fully committed. Make it a fun, quick, live song to get the blood pumping. On the lyrical front, it’s not exactly chart friendly fare. You can ignore them and just singalong with the chorus, but a deeper dive makes things more suspect. No matter the angle I come at the lyrics from, I can’t shake a sense of distaste. Does it border on making light of mental illness, or is it simply talking about two people whose individual curios brought them together? Each of the parts following the ‘we need to talk’ intros can be seen as random or possibly taken from a real life event, but for the listener there isn’t much to grasp beyond the sense that someone is exhibiting unusual behaviour and that it’s seemingly escalating. It’s a shame that the lyric doesn’t resolve anywhere – it just peters out after the second verse. I’m going to need an explanation for this one.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

We begin BYAMPOD with the shocking revelation that Dream Sanja has been cheating on Dream Paul. I have those every so often and it’s bizarre how it does piss you off for the rest of the day. Add to that the stress of their upcoming Marillion trip and the ever-present threat of Cov-Id and a cat which, like mine, cannot abide closed doors and we’re off to a ripper! Rothers and Hackett together – Rackett? Racket club? It all makes sense. It sounds like we will have at least one more Happiness episode.

Paul reveals what I expected about a few of these songs – that some of them are leftovers from Somewhere Else. I didn’t place them at that time, but they definitely have the tone and quality of being leftovers. Sanja says that Throw Me Out was her earworm of the album and Paul makes a prophecy that the band will be playing it live, for the first time, at an upcoming show. Sanja highlights the additional instrumentation as giving it a special quality and they agree it’s a very Beatles influenced song. The guys touch on the lyrics, unsurprisingly about H being kicked out circa Somewhere Else. Sanja expands on what I called out on the lyrics – the minor nature of the reasons for the relationship ending and the bitter tone. Paul takes a slightly different view that the biggest stuff has already been covered in H’s lyrics before and that this is just calling out all of the other little niggles. As mentioned above, I felt the song was dripping with blame and guilt but that it was scattershot, the result of sudden anger and confusion. When you’re hurt or in shock, your logical faculties aren’t on full steam and fingers are pointed outwards and inwards. I’m with both of the guys here. But I’m most right, cos this is my blog, init?

Sanja doesn’t have much to add on Half The World beyond it being a nice little song. Paul says it’s one of his favourites on the album and that it’s H’s best performance here, contrasted with the next song. I think I mentioned H’s vocals for Half The World (and Whatever Is Wrong With You), and yes he’s in his element here. As tired as he comes across on Whatever Is Wrong With You, I don’t think that song is heavy or harsh enough that he couldn’t do anything with it. A good singer, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum, finds a way. Paul thinks it’s a higher tier B-Side song, but whether or not it’s deserving of a place on the album is debatable. On the cricket theme tune… I knew I knew the song from somewhere, but that’s not it.

Lyrically, Sanja picks up on a similar sentiment I’d mentioned. The ‘lets be friends’ vibe, or as she calls it, the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ vibe. Sanja and I seem to be on the same wavelength on these songs – I picked up on some of this stuff, but for this song I did say that it’s 99% more likely to just be a simple, sweet, non-sarcastic lyric. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to how H writes that we’re predisposed to expect a certain tone or meaning from whatever he does. Which leads us into Whatever Is Wrong With You, an apt title given Paul’s stance on Lucy, given she listens to the podcast. JOKE. JOKE!

Paul doesn’t rip the song as much as I was expecting – it simply comes down to him not thinking, probably rightly, that the band don’t do this sort of thing well, and the tempo. For me, it’s the tempo and the fact that they don’t go all in. They barely go half in, and the song is left in this bland middle ground. It’s like… you know those TV Talent shows where a bunch of hopefuls stand in front of industry talking heads and perform? Most of the music acts are you’re typical pop and soul acts, but every so often someone will do a rock song or play a guitar solo – the camera will cut to the judges and you’ll see them doing some sort of half-assed head-nodding or devil horns or air guitar, and it just stinks of being false. It’s the pre-requisite behaviour of someone who doesn’t really get it, but they’re aping the moves and the culture. For someone like me who has been steeped in Metal and Rock my entire life, without being a echo chamber fanboy, it’s easy to see through such bullshit. I think Marillion is capable of doing an aggressive rock song because they have the musical talent to pull it off, but for whatever reason, on this song they refused to give the song what it needed.

Sanja doesn’t like the song at all and calls out a single guitar moment. Maybe the much anticipated Manics podcast is off the table. For my own curiosity, Paul and Sanja, which Rock and Metal bands/songs do you guys enjoy. If any? We know Prog is a sub genre of Rock, and that there are in turn many sub-genres and styles of Prog. The H iteration of Marillion is on the softer side of the Spectrum – which is fine. As much of a Metal boy as I am, I’m a music fan first and foremost and the genre tends to not matter to me as long as I enjoy the song. Maybe save it for a Q&A, or maybe I’ll email it in separately, but which ‘true’ harder rock and Metal songs do you guys enjoy, and does that have any bearing on your feelings towards Marillion’s rock moments?

What do the guys make of the lyrics? Sanja is as confused as the rest of us. Paul says the lyrics are playful nonsense with no deeper meaning. I’m not so sure – I have my Sanja hat on and get the sense that there’s something more to it. It doesn’t have to be as sinister as I made it out above, but there’s something. It seems like too much of a coincidence to write the lyrics with that escalating quality. Or is that me reading too much into it? In which case, there are no loose ends to the narrative, because there is no narrative.

Which brings us to the end of this particular post – the final two songs and a wrap up will be coming next time, as we edge closer to present day Marillion. Let us know your thoughts in the blah blah blah!

Essential Movies – 1965 – An Alternative View

For my original post explaining my criteria – click here!

For the mainstream view – click here!

Rules: Ten films which, in some way, show our history and culture reflected in film and film’s growth and change as a medium. It can’t simply be your ten personal favourites of the year. One of your ten choices must be in the top 10 grossing films of the given year. One of the films must have been nominated for a Best Film Oscar (Best Picture, Best Foreign Feature, or Best Animated Feature). One of the films needs to appear in a renowned critic or magazine or book’s best 10 films of the year. These choices can’t overlap. 

  1. Dr Zhivago (Top Grossing Choice)
  2. Kwaidan (Academy Award Choice)
  3. Thunderball (Critic’s Choice)
  4. Dr Terror’s House Of Horrors
  5. Faster Pussycat Kill Kill
  6. Repulsion
  7. The Sound Of Music
  8. Alphaville
  9. The Greatest Story Ever Told
  10. The Cincinnati Kid

What are your Top Ten Essential Movies of 1965?

Sh*t I Watch – Ozark

Ozark - Rotten Tomatoes

Greetings, Glancers! When was the last time I did one of these? From my perspective, it’s a little odd that I do so few Television posts versus Music and Movies considering I probably spend at least the same amount of time (if not more) watching TV as I do watching Movies or listening to Music. In the time since my last Sh*t I Watch post, I’ve completely finished a bunch of TV shows so I may as well bore you by talking about them.

One of my first TV posts was my thoughts on Breaking Bad. The short version of that post is that I liked Breaking Bad well enough, but I was in no ways a super fan and it was never going to become a personal favourite. Unlike most viewers, I never got pulled into the story or cared much about any of the characters. It was just a thing to watch, mainly because so many people gave it so much acclaim. Flashforward and my wife says to me one night that she’s heard good things about Ozark. I was a little apprehensive because everything I’d heard about the show made it sound like a watered down, less interesting, less acclaimed version of Breaking Bad. Why would I want to watch Breaking Bad Junior, if I wasn’t a big fan of daddy?

Turns out that I enjoyed Ozark a hell of a lot more than Breaking Bad. Is it a better show? What comes first tends to be highlighted as the superior show, but I think Ozark took elements of the template which Breaking Bad laid out, and improved upon it; the drama, the story, the characters, the tension, the humour, the violence. From a story perspective, it starts out in a similar place; an intelligent, somewhat devious man finds himself in a tight spot, and finding no alternative willingly doubles down to a life of crime while trying to hide his other life from his family. From there, the comparisons end because before long his family both finds out about his life, and willingly gets involved in it too.

Jason Bateman seems from the outside like an unusual choice as Marty Byrde. He has just the right amount of everyman appearance, anger, cynicism, futility, and humour to make the role work. Joining as his wife is Laura Linney – a woman with many secrets of her own, their teenage kids with their own problems, and a bunch of Cartel killers on their heels. Early in the show, the family is forced to move from the big city to The Ozarks which Marty thinks is an untapped haven for drugs and money laundering. Almost immediately, he finds that The Ozarks is more of a hive of scum and villainy with drug lords and minor crooks a visible presence. There’s Peter Mullan and Lisa Emery as the murderous heroin farmers with connection to local politicians, Julia Garner and Charlie Tahan as cousins within the infamous petty criminal Langmore family, and a couple of FBI agents in tow. Poor old Marty has a lot of money to make with all of these eyes on him – because if he doesn’t, the lads from Mexico will be knocking on his door with a few bullets ready for him, his wife, and his kids.

Throughout its four season run, Ozark has several twists and turns meaning that the Byrds find themselves sucked even deeper into crime and danger while plotting their escape from it all. It seems that every time they have an escape route, some new group or individual comes along and burns it down if it isn’t done by their own mistakes or ego. This may be frustrating for the viewer as it leads to questions of contrivance for the sake of keeping the show going. There’s a point in the second season when things are turning rosy and it seems like the family has a way out – but someone makes a decision that is somewhat out of left field and buggers things up completely, setting up the final two seasons.

But this is one of the recurring draws of the show – it’s a fine example of shit always going wrong, always getting worse. Whether it’s the business, or the feds, or the kids, or some random mishap, there is always a new and stressful situation for Marty to puzzle and talk his way out of. While there is plenty of talking in the sharp script, the show doesn’t shy away from both the threat and actuality of violence – there are plenty of sudden and gruesome deaths throughout the series. Knowing that many of the characters are both highly protective of their families and their business, while also being a tad psychotic, it lends that constant tension over anyone being knocked off at any moment.

Julia Garner's 'Ozark' Performance as Ruth in Season 4, Episode 7 | TVLine

At the end of the day, it’s the characters, the performances, and the emotions which drew me in most over the likes of Breaking Bad. Julia Garner’s Ruth Langmore is the MVP, her drawling cynicism and hick wiles being a counterpoint to the usual trend of high-powered, highly intelligent or utterly useless foils we tend to see. As mentioned above, she cares deeply about her family, conflicted as she is, and is always looking for a way to get rich and get free. As abusive as the world she contributes to is, she thrives within it and uses and is used by the Byrds and the Business.

If you enjoy crime shows, indeed if you enjoyed Breaking Bad, then Ozark seems like a logical recommendation. It has similar humour, similar conflicts, and similar tension while being set in a similar world, but the locations and voices are different. It’s definitely worth your time. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Volume 2 (Part 2)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back for a run down through the next set of songs from Happiness Is The Road Volume 2. The guys had wondered if they could get through the whole album in a single episode, but luckily for us it looks like we’ll be going the distance – more episodes for us to enjoy!

Asylum Satellite 1 is as Prog a title as Marillion has devised since the Fish days. Long before I’d heard it, it already held a place of infamy in my head due to Paul referencing its horrible guitar sound in the past. I can see why he, and perhaps others, would consider this to be a grating sound. I’m not sure if it’s ‘supposed’ to sound harsh and uncomfortable, or if it’s meant to be just an interesting, spacey sound. If you think about a genre like Grunge – those bands knew that they were making ugly sounds with their voices and instruments, and leaned into it. I suspect this is simply a scratchy effect with Rothers thought sounded a little otherworldly and would suit certain songs – but that it had the by product of being unpleasant to the ears of many listeners. I don’t mind it; I’d probably be just as happy if it had been played clean or with any other effect, but it definitely isn’t the most appealing tone.

The song is nine and a half minutes long. Does it keep my interest for the entire duration? Not always. It’s a journey, but it doesn’t take many twists or shift gears. I prefer my epics to keep me guessing or to play out like a three act play in terms of engagement and pacing. This mostly remains plodding and returns to its central melodies repeatedly. That wouldn’t be a problem, but those melodies are mostly dull. Broken up by lengthy instrumental sections where Rothers gets to show off his new pedal, the only piece I truly enjoyed was the brief, plaintive vocal from H around the 5 minute mark. That’s a nice shift in tone and I wish the song had built from that point and gone in a different direction. Instead, we get another aimless and empty guitar solo and spacey instrumental which, yes, sounds like you’re drifting through space or whatever, but I imagine drifting through space is incredibly boring unless you’re under attack by Aqualish pirates. I don’t think any amount of chopping minutes out of the song would improve it for me – keep part of the intro, keep that middle piece, and entirely overhaul the rest of it.

The lyrics are similarly aimless and meandering and evocative of a journey. It’s nothing we haven’t heard from the band, or many other bands before – frustration, confusion, distance, all conveyed through a Sci Fi lens. It’s like that Halloween Simpsons episode where Homer gets on a rocket which is being fired into the Sun. Or whatever that episode was based on. Or like Battlestar Galactica. Or like The Odyssey. I like the idea, but in a nine minute song it says very little. The only line which may be vaguely interesting is ‘back in 22’, because we’ve just left 2022 and as far as I’m aware, very few people have gone galivanting through the stars in an attempt to spread Right Wing Christianity or whatever bollocks that musky fella is up to.

Older Than Me is a perfectly sweet song, maybe the most traditionally Marillion song on Volume 2 so far. It’s cleanly produced, it dispenses with the frills of the last few songs, and it provides a break in the album from the anarchy of Asylum Satellite 9. It’s just a little dull. It’s sleepy. It’s the sort of song which would verge on dirge territory if it was much longer. As it is, it’s just the right length to get its point across and retain its melodic and emotive qualities.

Like much of Volume 1, this is a showcase for Mark Kelly. I can’t tell if all of the little dings and bings are also keyboards or if they are some sort of percussion, but in any case it all serves to create this dreamy, fantastical sound, which of course serves the lyrics. There’s a risk when you write these almost opposing musical parts that they can conflict with each other and the whole becomes messy – the lead keyboard part and the more xylophone sounding part overlap and different points, but they end up complimenting each other even though they are both doing opposing things in isolation. Under all of this, the bass is doing a slight descending line to produce a resolution to the tension of each line. It’s all very well done. The breathy sighs of the backing vocals offer some additional layering and melody, and it’s an approach I don’t remember Marillion taking too often. Overall, it’s a great example of all of the various parts of the song working together to serve the whole – the lyrics serving the mood of the music and vice versa. I’d be interested in which was crafted first.

I admit there’s probably a case, if anyone wants to make it, for the ‘she’ in the song not being a person. Is it nature, is it the universe, that sort of thing. But that way lies madness, so I’ll stick with it simply being a song of lower tier infatuation, respect, love. The most simple explanation seems to be that it’s a song about the narrator falling in love with an older woman – that he has reached the point that the younger people he may have once been interested in and distracted by, no longer hold any allure. He doesn’t care that people may balk at him being with this person and any visible signs of age are meaningless because of the connection they have. It’s quite beautifully written and tender. If we’re following along the ‘story of H’ through his lyrics over the various albums, this feels like a new chapter in which he closes the door on the rock star playboy exploits of his younger days.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

We kick off the latest episode of BYAMPOD with the chilling announcement that Paul and Sanja’s Marillion trip to the Netherlands is coming soon, and they’re not prepared for it. I don’t feel prepared for my trip to Menorca this Summer – the kids Irish passports have been rejected so we’re going right through that process again – but otherwise everything is in place. I say that I don’t feel prepared, but generally my wife does all the work and I just turn up on the day, hoping a couple of pairs of boxers have been packed. Menorca has become ‘our place’ – the first real holiday destination we all went on as a family, though this is going to be the first time we travel with our son. Good luck sleeping on the flight anyone who’s near my hyperactive three year old!

Fish’s competition – one ‘lucky’ winner going to his home to spend the day with him and his wife, sounds like the blurb for a cult-oriented horror movie. Dinner parties are not my thing either, there’s a formal pressure involved and I think of being forced into religious gatherings when I was young where I would have sold my soul just to get out of them. We don’t really have them in my house, thank goodness. Christmas, that’s about it. Pub – sure. Going to a restaurant, depending on who I’m going with, sure. Have I had dinner with any famous people… no-one anyone reading this would have heard of. Various Northern Irish pseudo-famous people, to the extent of being in Sport or Politics or some other nonsense I don’t care about. I can lie my way through any situation, but if someone gives me an invitation (intended or otherwise) to some punchline, lewd aside, or bizarre non-sequitur, you can be sure that I’ll respond in a socially unfortunate manner entertaining only to myself.

On to Asylum Satellite 1 and a Rothers quote about his guitar setup. Makes sense to me – I’ve never been fancy with my setup and just go with whatever sounds I can squeeze out of whatever I have. If I were a rich man, I’d certainly buy a few more pieces of equipment, but I don’t think I’d ever be a tech-boy. I’m more interested in the ideas and melodies when writing, and I leave everything afterwards to fate or the tech-boys. With that out of the way, the song has miraculously clicked for Paul. I was at a concert once – I can’t even remember who it was but I’m guessing Radiohead – and there was a guy with a pumpkin pie/Garfunkel hairdo who decided it was his role in life to stand directly in front of me for the entire show, with his arms folded, and didn’t move or sing or otherwise react for the entire duration. All 6ft something of him. In fact, the only time he ever moved was to re-position himself in front of me if I strafed to the side. It gives me no shame to say that he may have received a shin-related wound towards the end of the show during a particular rambunctious Nightman jump around session. I’ve never understood why people spend money to go to a show, and then visibly give off ‘anywhere but here’ vibes. This happens time and time again, the more gigs I’ve been to. It’s those guys, and then the people who are simply there to get pissed or stoned or start fights – I struggle with the purpose of their existence. I was stuck beside a group of these types the last time I saw Guns N Roses. That was a 100 Quid Plus show, and they sat almost the entire day, gradually getting more and more off their faces only to dance to Sweet Child O Mine, then resume their nonsense. I don’t get it.

Back to the song – it has grown on Paul and he now sort of likes it. Does this mean his opinion of Whatever Is Wrong With You is going to change? Rothers apparently improvised much of his work – on this song but also in general – while the song transports Sanja to a 1960s French film. I like Producers taking their songs apart track by track – what’s often most interesting is how much just gets shoved in to a mix and forgotten, whether it be a Producer splicing in parts from different takes, or one of the performers doing a bunch of overdubs and then those being added and swallowed up. In the old days, you would get a lot of ‘bleeding’ from different mics if the band was recorded their parts at the same time (for example, a singer might be recording his part in a booth while the band played along outside, but if they were playing loudly enough then part of that can be absorbed into the singer’s recorded vocals and offer something different from the actual, separate band recording). There was a Paul McCartney and Rick Rubin series where they broke down some Beatles songs and Paul was surprised by some of what they found when the tracks were isolated – all very interesting if you’re a fan. Yes, get Mike Hunter on. I’ll re-record whatever he says and everyone can laugh at my accent.

As epic a sound as the band may have been gone for, I can’t say it struck me as Cinematic and I didn’t get the feelings which Sanja did. It’s certainly spacey and futuristic, but it did little for me. Maybe in another 20 years it’ll mean something to me. I had just as little to say about the lyrics as I did about the music. Sanja goes down the Environmental route as the setup for the Space escape/exploration story, which seems reasonable given the band’s history and the increasing cultural awareness of this issue. She comments on the dual meaning of ‘Asylum’ which I admittedly overlooked or didn’t care enough about to catch, but that is interesting. Paul says he remembers H saying his inspiration for the song was simply about refugees and placing, perhaps undesirables. on a satellite and stick them in Space. Paul’s take is that it’s more generally a song about being an outsider, about feeling apart from whatever institution or group you find yourself part of or put in or related to. As out of touch as Matt Hancock is – I’m still mystified by the public electing to keep him in the show for so long. I get that him being tortured would have been good watching for a while, but the guy was good at the trials so any ‘justice’ by forcing him to eat testicles quickly waned, and I thought he would have been booted much earlier. Then again, the public voted for Brexit, so what the fuck to they know?

Not to make light of a complex issue, but I’ve long held the theory that we’re all outsiders, falling into two camps; those who want to fit in and those who don’t. That’s maybe a shit take, and it’s maybe be trying to resolve my own issues. I’ve always felt, no, I’ve always been an outsider. I make friends easily enough, but I typically prefer to be on my own, in my own space, or in my own head. However, I don’t like the perception that may go along with this – I don’t wish to come across as mysterious, wilfully distant, a social mess, or seem like I’m doing some bizarre reverse-attention seeking theatre, so that conflict compels me to argue that I’m not unique in these feelings and that we’re all in the same boat. Did a single word of that make sense?

I have actively rebelled against positions I’ve found myself in. For a time, nothing depressed me more than going out with my friends. These were people I loved. But I was utterly lost both during and after the experience. Was because what we were doing simply wasn’t my thing? Maybe I was simply growing more distant from them and felt like I had little to say. Maybe it seemed like they had their shit together, had a plan, and could cope with existing, while I had none of that. This would inevitably be turned, innocently, back around on me as I would be labelled ‘the quiet one’ while on the inside I was screaming. Conversely, in a one on one, or even with the same group but doing something different I would feel more like my natural self. Even now I struggle to understand the feelings and the behaviours I had – why was I like this? It didn’t, and doesn’t make sense.  While I can view all of this as something which happened a long time ago, I still feel it inside me, a doppelganger biding its time. I started having periods of what I now know as derealization, coming seemingly from nowhere yet possibly triggered by the fact that I did have shit together. That’s honestly terrifying – the world almost literally peeling away from my eyes like the encrusted pages of an ancient tome. I assume this is all some jumbled way of admitting that some form of depression has always been inside me, attacking out of nowhere, yet never with enough force that I haven’t been able to get through it.

In any case, I’ve always been happy to be an outsider, and ultimately secure enough in my self to be me without being concerned by what others may think of me. I’m going to write what I’m aware will come off as a terribly dickish thing to say, but people seem to like me more often than I like them. I’ll be funny or seem interesting one time, and people assume that’s me 100% of the time. Honestly, if you’ve read more than a few posts on my blog you’ll know that I’m really not all that interesting. That’s not to say that I don’t like the people who like me – 99% of the time I do, but some evolutionary, social trait of being an ape must have passed me by along the way.

I don’t feel like I need to be a part of any group – friends, job, fandoms, whatever. I enjoy talking about the shit I love with people who do, or might, also enjoy that shit – I’ve had a blog for thirteen years now – but I’m equally content with howling my opinions into the void. My need to talk doesn’t equate to anyone needing to listen. The by-product of this is loneliness. I miss the people I connected with and I get pulled into viewing the past as this rosy place, but when I take the high level perspective which Paul is talking about I can admit that I’ve always been this way. Back then I was physically closer to my friends and could more easily spend time with them, whenever I chose to. Now I live in the middle of nowhere, far from where I grew up (if you can consider the distance between one side of Northern Ireland to the other as far), and I’m more or less content even if I do get bouts of missing people. Enough!

How does this all relate to the song? Maybe all my rambling doesn’t, but what Paul says about being at a distance makes sense along with the lyric. We move on to Older Than Me, which apparently was planned for Somewhere Else. Sanja says the music has a nostalgic feeling, with Paul adding that it is just like a lullaby. Where I said it was traditional Marillion, Sanja feels like it’s not like anything else they’ve done. I suppose when I was saying what I said, I meant the chilled vibe, the slow pace. Paul doesn’t have a lot to add about the music, beyond it being sparse and simple. The lyric remains something of a conundrum, with Paul saying he thinks the song is praising maturity over youth while Sanja adds another layer in thinking that it’s a cousin to some of the previous songs in its opposing opinion to the mass consensus. The guys talk about society’s obsession with youth and how that has flipped in our culture from days or centuries gone by. Like Richey from the Manics said, ‘youth is the ultimate commodity’. I understand the attraction, especially the physical side of things, but as health continues to improve and lives continue to be longer than at any time in the past, it seems strange to me that we don’t rely on the experience which comes with age, especially when it comes to the Arts. Yes, it’s great to have new voices and perspectives and people who can connect more authentically to the latest demographic, but there has to be a place at the table for everyone. Extreme examples maybe, but if we’d binned Scorsese, Hitchcock, and Kurosawa at age 50 we’d have never had The Wolf Of Wall Street, Vertigo, Psycho, or Yojimbo. Similar examples can be found in literature and music too. I guess I have 10 years to go.

The worry for me is that, yes Marillion are still on the go, along with many bands from the 80s, 70s, and a handful from the 60s. But they are mainly legacy acts, living off an almost proxy fandom. Sure new kids are still, and will always find these acts and wish that they had been around to see them in their prime, but the concern is… are those types of acts being created today? Which bands or performers who hit their peak in the 2000s, or who are at their peak now, will either want to, or still be allowed to be relevant in their 50s? Beyonce? Bieber? Swift? No doubt some will, but will they create new music and will that music be recognized regardless of its quality? Will Adele’s inevitable album 50, be as revered as her 19? For me, as long as you want to do it, and can still do it, you should be given the opportunity to do so.

With that, we leave it for another week. I’m away to listen to some Metal which I missed first time around, another one of 2020’s most highly regarded albums, and finish off a Swiss Roll from Lidl – 10 portions my arse. Leave your thoughts in the comments, and as always, go listen to BYAMPOD!

Best Supporting Actor – 1983

Official Nominations: Jack Nicholson. Charles Durning. John Lithgow. Sam Shepard. Rip Torn.

A curious list of names this year, with Jack Nicholson picking up another win and a host of respected industry performers if not necessarily household names. Jack won for Terms Of Endearment, understandable because it’s him and because it’s good, but it feels more like a recognition for the recent performances he was not nominated for and the sheer success of the film. His co-star John Lithgow plays ‘the other man’ and is somewhat more straight than what he’s typically known for.

The rest of our nominees have sadly since passed away, starting with Charles Durning who stars as the blundering Gestapo leader in the little seen remake To Be Or Not To Be. It’s a silly, fun movie with a great cast, but the nomination feels out of place given the other names who missed out. Sam Shepard receives the sole acting nomination for The Right Stuff – something of an oversight – while Rip Torn seems like something of a veteran nomination too for Cross Creek. A nice but mostly forgettable film with a few good performances.

My Winner: Sam Shepard.

The Look and the Voice: On Sam Shepard's Definitive Performance in "The  Right Stuff" | Features | Roger Ebert

My Nominations: Jeff Goldblum. C Thomas Howell. Sam Shepard. Ed Harris. Mickey Rourke. Steven Bauer.

An almost entirely different line-up for me, with only Shepard’s Chuck Yeager making it over to my list. Joining him is Ed Harris as John Glenn, one more of any number of performers deserving of a nomination in The Right Stuff. From Best Picture nominee The Big Chill comes Jeff Goldbum – he plays the celebrity journalist Michael but you could just as easily pick Tom Berenger. Similarly, from The Outsiders you could pick anyone but I’ve gone for C. Thomas Howell and for Rumble Fish, Mickey Rourke.

My winner though, obviously out-shadowed by Al Pacino, is Steven Bauer as Montana’s best friend Manny who is just as excitable but less unhinged than his partner in crime.

My Winner: Steven Bauer.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Punisher – Phoebe Bridges (2020 Series)

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back for another album I’ve never heard by an artist I’ve never heard of. At least that was the case when I first started this journey – but since then I have come to learn the name ‘Phoebe Bridgers’. I still don’t know who she is, what type of music she performs, and as far as I can tell I haven’t heard any of her songs. I do know that she provided dome vocals for the last Perfume Genius album I listened to – does that hint at her own sound?

Does this album artwork provide any additional foreknowledge? It seems to be someone in a skeleton outfit, standing in a stark, moon or desert like surrounding, looking up at the starry night. She looks very tiny. Nice colour contrasts. Does the red signify something is shining back at her? Like a UFO? If so, that’s like at least the third 2020 album artwork which has depicted such things. You know the drill – by the time I write the next paragraph, I’ll have heard the thing a few times.

Man, this is an album I so dearly wanted to love. There is so much to love for someone with my tastes and possibly with more time I would get to that point. However, it’s one of those albums where my feelings could go one of two ways; either I’ll completely fall for it, or the pieces which I don’t currently enjoy will swarm and force me backwards.

My first impression of the first few songs gave me some pause for concern; I was worried it was going to be too twee, too hipster. Like so many modern or recent artists of this introverted, lighter folk style, there is the risk that the entire lack of substance and focus on style (no different from the mainstream pop stars they enjoy mocking), and the pseudo-intellectual naval gazing would turn me off completely. You just know there’s going to be at least one person in the band with a beard and a ridiculous hairdo. These artists tend to follow a particular playing style, and the vocals are almost uniformly tepid. Thankfully, Punisher has a lot of lyrical depth and emotion to make Phoebe stand out from the crowd she may find herself associated with. Her vocals rarely show any dynamics or force or edge, but they are so earnestly fragile that they largely avoid falling into the twee category.

Speaking of the fragility of the vocals leads me to my prime impression of Phoebe, and the album as a whole. Whatever the aural equivalent of a double-take is, is how I reacted when I heard her voice for the first time. She sounds incredibly similar to Gemma Hayes. It’s not just the fragile softness, but it’s the tone, it’s the vocal intonations and inflections, the rasp and whisper. Like Gemma, Phoebe sounds like she’s right there in the room with you, singing directly into your ear and no-one else’s. I went as far as looking into Phoebe’s influences, because it seems impossible for someone to come along and sound this much like a doppelganger without having been influenced, but I couldn’t find anything to say she knows Gemma exists. So either this is all some ridiculous coincidence or there’s some knowing disguising of this emulation. Listen to something like Moon Song from this album, and then listen to something like This Is What You Do by Gemma Hayes. Two very different songs, but two very similar vocals. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if such comparisons are warranted.

Even with the blatant comparison in how the two singers sound, Phoebe has a much more limited style at least on the evidence of this album. Admittedly I haven’t heard anything from her outside of this album and haven’t heard her perform live. Gemma has a much wider range with her vocals, even if she does remain in a similar style or genre for most of her output, and in the live setting Gemma has the ability to truly belt out some of the bigger choruses and giving them greater urgency over the studio recordings. Based again on this album alone, Phoebe has the edge when considering lyrics – these are more involved, more picturesque and cynical and poetic, and often darker than what Gemma does. Gemma is no slouch when it comes to lyrics, but these hit differently. I will add that I love Gemma’s lyrics – she’s one of my all time favourite artists – but Phoebe’s certainly stand out and have a more alluring quality.

Musically, the album did take a while to shine through for me. My initial listens were frustrated by the lack of variety. It’s an album which does take some effort and time for the musical depth and variance to bubble through, but even after many considered listens there remains a sameness to both the music and certainly the vocals. Phoebe has her style and her favoured inflections and melodies, and absolutely will not veer away from them. Breathy and letting notes fall off and drawl away for that lazy, almost incomplete resolution. Even in the more peppy, poppy songs like Kyoto which are one of the few occasions when her vocals are stretched, the same tricks are applied.

I mention this not because the sameness and lack of variety is an issue in itself, but because it results in a lack of melodic potency, which is one of the key characteristics of my enjoyment of any music. You can have as expressive and intelligent and interesting sounds as you want, but if the same melodies are repeated then my enjoyment will be limited. In isolation, many of these songs are strong and their emotion is potent – the title track, Halloween, Garden Song, I See You Chinese Satellite – but when taken on a listen through the entire album, that sameness does drain on me. Possibly it’s the placement of the songs, leaving the melodic highlights of Kyoto and Graceland Too too far apart, but the album feels like it needs another song of that ilk somewhere in the middle to scrape away some of that sameness.

If the melodies feel lacking in places, the lyrics remain a constant source of intrigue and interest. A wide array of topics and emotions are covered, and it’s never less than highly personal to the point of being invasive, and yet easily understood for anyone with a heart. It’s a stark and welcome departure from the majority of the albums I’ve listened to in my 2020 journey and is easily the best of those from a lyrical perspective. It’s often lyrics which have me invested in an artist and keep me coming back to them even if I’m not as enamoured by the music – get both right, even if only semi-consistently, and I’ll be a fan.

It’s an album then that did leave me somewhat frustrated, but that’s on me. I didn’t get what I wanted – sucks to be me. It’s a great album, but the lack of variety in the melodies and the lack of oomph in the vocals does keep me at a distance. As mentioned, I want to love it and I hope that further listens will pull me in further. It’s an album which has the potential to become a favourite, and Phoebe is an artist who could become a favourite. Even if it turns out that I don’t accept the whole album, I’ll certainly retain I Know The End, Graceland Too, and Kyoto in my playlist for their respective haunting, cathartic, beautiful, and joyous qualities.


Sales: 3. As far as I can tell, it didn’t set the world on fire. I’m totally open to be corrected on this. It may more likely be a 4, but the lack of information online tells me that it wasn’t a smash.

Chart: 4. Top 10 in the UK, outisde the Billboard Top 40 in the US. Yet it was Top 10 in many of those ‘alternative’ charts and hovered around the Top 40 in other territories. Maybe this one should be 3 and Sales is a 4. Does it matter?

Critical: 4. Maybe gets to a 5, but we’ll let time decide. There’s always some newness bias with the latest critical darling.

Originality: 2. Possibly harsh, but beyond being of a younger generation and speaking about the world through those eyes, there isn’t anything revelatory in her lyrics and the music is similar to many many other artists.

Influence: 3. I think she has the voice and the intelligence to inspire others musically, perhaps more importantly even beyond music, but whether she has the reach to influence the next big thing, I don’t know.

Musical Ability: 3. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Lyrics: 5. Perhaps I’m being overly generous and this is a 4, but considering the complete embarrassment of most of what I read in lyrics these days, at least from the charts and from the 2020 albums I’ve heard, this is head and shoulders above anything else.

Melody: 3. Outside of 4-5 songs, the album recycles the same melodic styles.

Emotion: 4. It’s an open, honest, and dark album. There’s a focus on sadness, worry, anger and regret, but there is also love, joy, and tenderness.

Resilience/Lastibility: 3. It remains to be seen, but as mentioned above there’s always the risk that the latest critical darling can be ascribed an immense amount of hype, attention, and acclaim, only for that to be transferred over to the next new thing the moment critical darling A makes the slightest slip-up. Having said that, this does feel topical and seminal – a product of the Cov-Id times – and as such will be an important historical document in the future to show how people at large felt.

Vocals: 3. She adopts a style a like, and has an enjoyable voice, but doesn’t take it to any extremes or in any other direction.

Coherence: 4. Holds together well, and ties into the next category.

Mood: 4. It’s a mostly downbeat album, and that mood of sleepy darkness clicks in from the evocative instrumental opener, all the way through to the screaming closer. Phoebe manages to pull together darkness from her personal life and create a mood which is reminiscent of the chaos, closed in and closed off nature of the last few years.

Production: 4. Much of the album takes a close to minimalist approach, which suits the overall mood and fragility, but rather than being a quiet album, it instead accentuates the chaos of a mind trapped in a small room.

Effort: 3. A high 3, maybe on another day I’d go with 4 because of the lyrics, but on the musical front I’m not sure it gets a 4.

Relationship: 4. As I always preface this category with a direct comparison to myself – I’m not a white American twenty something woman, but I am a human in the 21st Century who lied through lockdown in a Developed nation. Even without Cov-Id, I can relate to isolation and pain.

Genre Relation: 4. Sounds like a lot of the other twee Indie folk stuff, but not as lily-livered or pretentious.

Authenticity: 4. I’ll allow a 4 here. I don’t doubt the feelings and experiences are authentic, but with this genre in this day and age, there’s so much which is false and so much which is reliant on the fact that the artist is a self-claimed quirk with no other talent beyond the ability to purchase cloths from the local Bohemian joint.

Personal: 4. Over time this could drop to a 3. I don’t think it will get to a 5 because so many of the songs follow the same pattern and tone – patterns and tones which don’t do a lot for me. But the lyrics and vocals and the handful of better songs are enough to warrant a 4, and if a couple of those others go up in my estimation, then a 5 may be within reach.

Miscellaneous: 3. The usual – let me know if there’s anything I should be aware of.

Total: /100

Essential Movies – 1965

Greetings, Glancers! Welcome back to my half-assed destruction of so call Essential movies as we look at which ones can truly be given such a moniker. Check out my explanation post for more info, and have a look at my 1965 Oscars posts if you have additional time to waste. Onwards!


Why Is It Considered Essential: Jean Luc Godard. Influential.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Old. Black and White. Foreign. Weird.

What I Think: Has a great look and is a good introduction to Godard’s style. Only Godard fans, Critics, Wannabees should consider it Essential, though Film Nerds will want to see what’s up.

Cat Ballou

Why Is It Considered Essential: Jane Fonda. Lee Marvin. 5 Oscar Nominations, 1 win. Top 10 Grossing film.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Westerns are typically tough men movies for tough men. Musicals are not. Musical Westerns? That’s a tough sell.

What I Think: It’s enough of a curiosity to bring in fans of both genres. Film Nerds will want to see what the fuss is about, but not Essential for anyone else. I actively dislike Musicals, and Westerns as a whole are not my thing. This manages to have a certain charm and Marvin and Fonda are strong.


Why Is It Considered Essential: Top 20 Grossing. Nominated for 5 Oscars, won 3. John Schlesinger. Julie Christie. Dirk Bogarde. Laurence Harvey.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Old, Black and White, doesn’t feature one of the true big stars of the era which modern audiences would know.

What I Think: I love how groundbreaking it is at looking at certain lifestyles and human relationships, and there’s no doubting the talent involved. Is there enough to make it essential for a modern viewer? Wannabees will get to it due to the Oscar success, fans of the cast should see it, I doubt anyone beyond that will.

Dr Zhivago

Why Is It Considered Essential: 2nd Highest Grossing movie of the year and one of most successful ever. Nominated for 10 Oscars, won 5. Julie Christie. Omar Sharif. David Lean. Alec Guinness.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: It’s over three hours. It’s incredibly dense, though basically a romance.

What I Think: It’s one of those movies I tend to avoid – sprawling historical epics based on literary epics based on real world events – feels too much like school than Cinema. You’re sucked in though by the visuals and as a technical feat there are fewer filmmakers more essential than David Lean. Essential for Critics, Wannabees, Film Nerds, Fans should see it once, but likely overlong for anyone else.

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill

Why Is It Considered Essential: I’m not sure it actually is considered Essential, but in the annals of Cult Movies it’s definitely one of the most Essential. Influential to many later artists on many fronts and peppered with quotable dialogue. If you watch one Russ Meyer movie – it’s this.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Old, Black and white, cheap, tacky, violent. It was a box office failure even though it’s budget was under 50K.

What I Think: If you like Cult Movies or Exploitation Film, it’s a must. Modern critics note it for its gender politics and influence. Essential down to Film Nerds, Film Fans should give it a try, and any Casuals who enjoy action, violence, and boobs will enjoy it.


Why Is It Considered Essential: Beatles. Top 20 Grossing.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Not as good as A Hard Day’s Night so if you’re only going to watch one Beatles movie, it won’t be Help!

What I Think: The music is better than A Hard Day’s Night, at least to me, but the film isn’t as strong. Still, it’s The Beatles and as cultural icons go they don’t come bigger. Essential all the way down to Casuals, and anyone should give it a try.

The Ipcress File

Why Is It Considered Essential: Cemented Michael Caine’s place on the map. One of the most successful and highly regarded British movies ever. Interesting counterpoint to 007. Also scored by John Barry. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Given the choice between this and a Bond movie, most will go with Bond. More quintessentially English, which may distance viewers.

What I Think: A great film as worthy of watching as any Bond. Casual British viewers of a certain age should enjoy it and Essential for anyone higher on the scale.

A Patch Of Blue

Why Is It Considered Essential: Top 20 Grossing. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nominated for 5 Oscars, won one. Sidney Poitier. Shelly Winters. Breaking down racial boundaries.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Dated, old.

What I Think: Yeah, it’s dated but still relevant, and must have been shocking at the time with all the stuff about prostitution, rape, and mixed race fun. Fans of cast should see it, not sure if it’s Essential for Film Nerds, and Wannabees will get to it and some point.


Why Is It Considered Essential: Polanski. Deneuve. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Old, Black and White. Weird.

What I Think: One of the finest horror movies of the era, one of the best psychological horror movies ever. Due to its expressionist nature it’s not one you can simply dip into, so likely not Essential for Casuals or below. Essential for everyone above.

The Sound Of Music

Why Is It Considered Essential: Highest grossing movie of year and one of most successful films ever. Nominated for 10 Oscars, won 5. If you ask people to name a Musical, this will be one of the top 5 answers.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: It’s a Musical. There’s too much smiling and singing and all of the other stuff I can’t stand about the genre. Sickly, simple, silly, showy.

What I Think: As much as I’m not a fan of the genre, there’s no getting away from the cultural impact. The film looks incredible, the songs are part of Western life. I think everyone has to see this at some point, right?

For A Few Dollars More

Why Is It Considered Essential: Top 15 Grossing film. Clint. Leone. Van Cleef. Morricone.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Too violent. Some people don’t like Spaghetti Westerns.

What I Think: A strong entry in the best Western Trilogy ever. If you watch one Spaghetti Western though, it’s not going to be this. Essential for Wannabees, Nerds, Western Fans.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Why Is It Considered Essential: Top 15 Grossing Film. Huge cast. Jesus? Nominated for 5 Oscars.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: Well over 4 hours long. Massive commercial flop. Not critically well received.

What I Think: If you’re going to watch one Biblical epic, it may as well be this one. It’s not good, but for the sheer number of Stars it’s interesting. Wannabees should get to it. Nerds will want to see what it’s all about. Essential for Christian types?


Why Is It Considered Essential: 3rd Highest Grossing Film of year. Bond.

Why Could It Not Be Considered Essential: As Bond films go, as Connery films go – it’s a lesser entry. Most people will go with Dr. No or Goldfinger. 

What I Think: I consider the Bond franchise as a whole essential viewing – there’s much for critics to think through, and general movie fans continue to gobble them up. Thunderball isn’t a personal favourite and if you don’t care for the series then I’d consider skipping it.

Which films of 1965 would you consider Essential, and who do you break down that categorization?