Nightman Listens To – Biffy Clyro – A Celebration Of Endings (2020 Series)!

A Celebration of Endings Cover.jpg

Greetings, Glancers! My first adventure into 2020’s offerings went about as well as expected – TL:DR version – I am old and I don’t understand modern pop music, but that’s okay because it’s factually crap, but that’s also okay because it’s not meant for me. Metal though…. I’ve lost my way with modern Metal in recent years. I keep track of my favourite new bands, I still follow the latest releases by the bosses of the genre, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to new stuff as much as I did when I was DJing. Apparently Biffy Clyro are still going, so I guess that’s good? I was never a big fan but I knew some of their songs and I saw them live the odd time. I had a friend who really loved them when they first arrived on the scene, but he has since found The Lord and I don’t know if he entertains such musical diversions any more. Sad.

North Of No South – jazzy intro. Biffy Clyro do that so many metal bands from the Noughties do that I’ve never enjoyed – having a loud, riff heavy intro, then suddenly sucking all of the sound and power out for a tame verse. I can’t state clearly why this is something I don’t like – I enjoy when bands do the quite verse loud chorus bit in previous eras, but there’s something about the Noughties approach or tone that irks me.

The Biffy Clyro singer (lets just call him ‘Mr Biffo’) has a very affected North American accent – another thing which gets on my goat. Maybe there’s a correlation between the natural Scottish accent and how it translates while singing. I’m quite picky about accents while singing – I don’t enjoy the forced clipped Hard Rs which non-US singers adopt to apparently make them sound more North American – yet I don’t mind it as much when actual American singers sing in this style. I also can’t stand English singers singing in what may be their natural regional accent – possibly it’s the fact that I’m not a fan of those accents regardless of them being spoken or sung, or possibly I prefer my vocalists to sing in a more plain, classical sense? There’s some truth in both, but given I enjoy singers with unusual singing accents and styles – natural (Anneke Van Giersbergen, James Dean Bradfield, Natalie Imbruglia) or affected (Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell) I would put less stock in the latter being true. Mr Biffo does sound Scottish later in the album – certain words, vowels, phrases stand out.

Both first tracks are very bouncy and melodic, each has a variety of hooks which I can see people loving. The second track is a lot of fun, sounding like Muse in places, but I just wish the vocal approach was less of the hard R USA style. Muse isn’t the only obvious comparison which leapt out at me in my early listens – certain riffs are very QOTSA and the album seems happy to be stuck in a 2002-2006 rock sound. That’s fine with me as that era had a lot of great bands (an awful lot of shite too). To the band’s credit, songs which begin with a certain sound or comparison, don’t always end with that comparison in place – Weird Leisure has an obvious QOTSA intro, but ends in a completely different place.

Tiny Indoor Fireworks is a fun, summery rock song, perfect for festivals and cider if we can ever have those again. As a rock or metal album, it never gets particularly heavy. It’s definitely aiming for a more accessible and commercial sound. It’s maybe the sort of accessible rock album which gets newbs interested in the genre – there’s enough melodies and big choruses for people to bop to while simultaneously getting accustomed to those heavier intros and sections so that when they hear a heavier album or band the experience is not as jarring, and they’re more willing to accept it. Even the more consistently heavy songs – End Of for example – have plenty of melody to invite the uninitiated. That song is an example of the band retaining their willingness to change things up within a four minute song., adding bonus riffs, jazz-infused licks, a brief instrumental, and layered vocals which range from screamo to choral.

The ballad of the piece – Space – it’s a little too on the nose and cheesy for my liking, coming from someone who loves cheesy ballads by rock bands. The lyrics are copy/pastes of every other love song you’ve ever heard and the simplicity of the melody alongside the not-great vocal performance are buried under too many layers of strings and noise. I do enjoy layered noise, and certainly layered strings, but Space should have been an example of less is more. Opaque fares better in this respect – the strings are awash with emotion, but they are restrained, and even the repetition of ‘take the fucking money’ which would normally come off as very silly just about clasps on to being earnest. It’s a much sweeter melody too, and the song builds through its restrained openings without ever reaching excessive levels. The closer does what good closers can sometimes do – encapsulate the entire tone and style of the album in a single song while wrapping up the themes and finishing things in a satisfying, moreish way. The Scottish accent forcefully comes through and the mixture of pop sensibility and furious pointed rock is at a high. Being the longest song on the album there is room for a little more artistic expression and musical freedom – the song moving into a beautiful instrumental section near the three minute mark. It’s a moment which stands out as unique on the album with the band feeling relaxed and confident enough to repeat and grow the melodies housed within the section. It’s the best part of the song and one of the finest moments on the album – there’s a shred of pity that the opening minutes of the song are more atypical shouty rock, complete with painful ‘fuck everybody’ chanting.

Lyrically the album is as mainstream and commercial as your generic pop – with this being Rock music the thematic content is more closely aligned to anger, regret, and pain than your boy/girl band/RnB fare. This means we get plenty of dramatic F-bombs, adolescent adjacent emotions, and plaintive choruses designed to be easily parotted by the masses. The album title has close ties with the recurring themes of the album – breakups, collapsing relationships, moving on, uncertainty – these are terrible things which we’re all likely to face but you can find strength in how you react to and progress from them. These endings can be celebrated, but throughout the album there are questions asked and sometimes the answers aren’t the beacons of hope we needed. The style is not overly poetic to the extent of being heavily laden with metaphor or reference – this increases the likelihood of listeners and readers understanding the sentiment and relating those to their own lives, but simultaneously makes the lyrics less interesting on an intellectual, personal, and emotional level.

It’s an immediate album – there’s nothing groundbreaking or challenging even as the band play around the format of a 3-4 minute rock song – but the hooks are not evasive and I found myself familiar with them after a single listen. Some of that immediacy was perhaps at a surface level as the songs rarely stayed with me by a few hours later, and any melody I found myself humming was quickly replaced when the next song came on. On the less cynical side – the sheer number of melodies suggests that anyone, myself included, would distinguish between these with additional listens and the album would become more distinct, memorable, and enjoyable. On a personal note I don’t think there’s actually enough here to encourage me back to the album, and even the standout songs aren’t screaming for me to hit play again.

Album Score

As I’m a maniac, lets try to continue with this scoring malarkey. You should know the drill by now; Twenty sections, each with a score of five, giving a total out of 100. Some sections are based on personal preference, but others should be mostly set in stone and free from bias.

Sales: 4. Look, we know this category and the next are not what they used to be – it’s no longer easy to say exactly how many copies have been sold and if those sales are high or low comparatively. What we can say is that the album sold fairly well in its opening weeks – enough to knock Taylor Swift off the top spot in the UK. Time will tell if the album continues to sell or comes to a dead stop. A four for now, based on how well it sold against its contemporaries.

Chart: 4. As above, early signs were positive. It didn’t make much of an impact in the US but was number in UK, Scotland, and 2nd in Ireland. A number 1 album in one of the major markets – basically US or UK – is usually good enough for a 4, but if it peaked there for a week and dropped away never to be seen again, you could have a 3. Some high spots in Europe, but average on the whole.

Critical: 4. Not flawless critical acclaim, but easily one of the most favourably rated rock albums of the year across the board. No negative reviews from any of the major outlets, but not always positive on the fan and blogger side (not counting myself in this discussion).

Originality: 3. It sounds like Biffy Clyro to me, if a little more commercial. Various critics pointed out the invention and creativity on display, but to my ears there is nothing out of the ordinary here in genre terms.

Influence: 2. This is one of those categories which you can only accurately score in retrospect – unless it’s so groundbreaking and pervasive that you see copycats and parodies within a year of its release. It’s unlikely for bands to be influential this deep into their career, and based on the info we currently have it feels like just another album.

Musical Ability: 3. I’ll get flack for pointing this the same as what I scored Bad Bunny’s album – an album which didn’t really contain musical instruments. But we had to rate them based on their genre and we rate Biffy as a rock band. They can play, then can make some noise, they can craft a meaty riff and melody. They do what they do, but there’s nothing jaw-dropping.

Lyrics: 3. A few embarrassing moments which fall into the trap of shouting swears in lieu of genuine anger, but by and large the lyrics are serviceable and get their point across without being especially poignant, poetic, or ingenious.

Melody: 3. I’ve gone back and forth on a 3 or a 4 for this. The album is jam packed with melodies, but as yet there aren’t many moments which have stuck with me or that I can recall if I read the song title. I could understand a 4 here as the melodies would have more impact on me with further listens and because the are simple and immediate… they just lacked a single outstanding earworm which I couldn’t dislodge from my brain.

Emotion: 3. There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of fear, pain, sadness, even some happiness in there. None of it truly resonated with me personally, as much as I could feel it pouring from the writing and the performance. As someone who rates emotional connection as second only to melody in terms of my enjoyment of music, I can’t go higher than a three when it didn’t make me feel anything.

Lastibility: 3. Difficult to gauge at this point, even if the album is almost a year old. I don’t think people are still talking about it now – in today’s musical landscape, if your song or album is still in the charts or being actively engaged with and spoken of within 6 months of its release, that would be considered a huge win. While I don’t as much stock in this category for a modern album versus an album released in previous decades, it feels like only long time fans will continue to sing this one’s praises.

Vocals: 3. I raised some of my personal grievances with the vocals in the first part of my post, but assuming most listeners won’t share those issues I’m happy to go with a 3. Nothing emotional or distinct enough to make me consider going higher.

Coherence: 4. It’s coherent – it doesn’t jump about from style to style, it doesn’t feel like there were a lot of different cooks adding their spices to the broth, and each song feels like a Biffy Clyro song.

Mood: 3. There’s a mixture of introspection and the need to break free from those inner thoughts – a constant war between bottling up feelings and letting them out. It’s not much of a stay in and listen album, more of a collection of 3 or 4 songs which would be fun to jump around to at a festival.

Production: 3. Solid. Crisp. I would have preferred some more variety in the arrangement but the production holds clear where it matters – the vocals, guitars, bass, and drums.

Effort: 3. Whether or not bands put the same amount of effort into writing and recording an album late in their career versus starting out is an interesting question. The people doing the writing and recording would of course say they’ve worked their asses off. I have called this a fairly standard Biffy album, while critics who presumably know better than me have said how surprising and inventive it all is. I go with a 3 – 4 seems reasonable too.

Relationship: 3. I’ve already mentioned that the music and lyrics didn’t make any grand emotional or intellectual communication with me. It is still big shouty rock music, so even if it’s garbage (it’s not) there will be a bare minimum trace connection I can latch on to. This is the genre I have most affinity for and I understand what goes into making a good rock song. As also mentioned – if you know anything about the band, you’d know this was a Biffy album as soon as you heard a single song. They know what they’re doing and they’re still doing it.

Genre Relation: 3. It doesn’t do anything especially non-committal or shocking for the genres of rock or metal, but it was highly rated and sold well commercially – those factors count for a lot in this category as it means the album stands out over and above the albums which didn’t sell or received average reviews. It’s hardly the pinnacle of the genre and there are plenty of bands going today who are making much stronger, much less known albums. 3 for me.

Authenticity: 4. It’s true to what a Biffy album should be, even if it does aim to be more commercial. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be commercial, but there can be trouble if your band started out with a specific agenda or specific audience which you later move away from. This album should see the majority of existing fans happy with the end result, and the more commercial touches could invite new listeners.

Personal: 3. It’s fine. I can’t see me listening to it again, but I’m not a long-time fan. I’ve been aware of the band, I’ve seen them live, I’ve heard plenty of their songs, and while they’ve never been for me I appreciate their cult following. This album hasn’t changed how I feel about the band, but it’s cool they’re still going and that they’ve found their niche and are able to be successful. A handful of songs I had more than an average enjoyment for, a few annoying moments and choices, but by and large an album I’ll forget.

Miscellaneous: 2. Nothing striking about the artwork, any of the videos, nothing interesting about the release of the album that I’m aware of. Lets go with an average 2.

Total: 63/100

Let us know in the comments what you think of A Celebration Of Endings!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Charm School!

Charm School by Roxette: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Greetings, Glancers! I’m fairly certain I’ve seen a Barbie movie called something like Charm School. That one where she’s Blair Willows. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to hear something we haven’t heard before, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’, and by ‘me’ I mean ‘I’. I haven’t heard any of this album before and in truth I don’t have high hopes. Charm School was the first album in ten years from Roxette, after the not so good Room Service. Marie had had a brain tumour you see, and that sort of thing gets in the way of, well, everything. But the band and Marie kept fighting and returned with another record. I have no idea what it’s like or what it’s about, but the best I’m hope for is one good single in the vein of their past greats – one song that I hear and can say ‘hey, that was actually pretty good’. Lets do this.

Way Out‘ starts out with some distant swirling before a laid back beat and acoustic guitar section starts. Per’s vocals should always take a back seat to Marie’s for me, but that’s me. It’s nice to hear that Roxette pop rock sound again, in this modern world of clipped melodies and auto-tuning. There’s some crisp guitar, some light melodies, and the chorus is as always the focal point. It’s not bad.

No One Makes It On Her Own‘ begins with Marie and piano. With a name like that, it’s easy to draw parallels with what she had been going through when gone from the public eye. Her vocals are still good, but is there some sort of mumble quality or lisp there now? Or is she struggling more with English? There’s definitely something a little different from before. Otherwise, this is very nice – a melody as simplistic as something like Imagine but honest and heartfelt. Two songs of varying B Grade quality.

She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)‘ opens with a funky beat and strange oozing distortion. Per leads again. The verse is guff, the chorus isn’t bad but too short versus the longer verse. The verse is C or D grade, the chorus B, the bridge B – whatever that works out for you. I’d call it the weakest song so far, but the most up-tempo.

Speak To Me‘ starts with one of those oriental sounding string instruments. More Per. A better melody and verse. The Marie comes in with a blast of a chorus – that’s a very Roxette chorus, very reminiscent of their heyday. It’s good. I get the impression that this one would act as a comeback anthem for diehards. It’s not challenging, just a reminder that they can still do the big emotive power pop thing when they choose to.

I’m Glad You Called‘ is slow acoustic guitars and the start. It’s Marie and that lisping mumbling quality is even more prominent here. It’s quite distracting, which is a shame because the music is quite lovely – no booming drums, but lots of string accompaniment and unusual vocal choices, even when Per joins. I think this could be really good with a more powerful vocalist in their prime, or Marie twenty years earlier.

Only When I Dream‘ kicks off with the big hook first, some fuzzing guitars and synth stuff alongside it. Per propels another decent atmospheric verse forwards before Marie joins. It keeps kicking on and building and then the chorus drops suddenly. It’s pretty good too, but those transitions are slightly too sudden – like there’s a few seconds just missing to connect the pieces and heighten the emotion and solidity. Still, it’s more compelling than most of what was on the last couple of albums and it actually feels like a return to form.

Dream On‘ opens with a nice acoustic flourish before trending towards an early Britpop sound – like James or one of those bands who were doing the Britpop thing before Blur and Oasis exploded. They’ve pulled way back on the experimental outbursts from the last album and are dedicating their focus on melody, which is a big plus for a band like this. Marie gets a quick hook in there too, followed by some harpsichord type jingling.

Big Black Cadillac‘ sounds like they’re going experimental again. There’s synth humming but at least it’s melody based again rather than just chucking in sounds for the sake of it. It’s more that they’ve said ‘instead of guitars, lets try this’. The verse is silly and bouncy, the chorus better. A little similar to some other songs on the album but not so overt as to make me discount it.

In My Own Way‘ is another slow one – arpeggio and Marie, singing more clearly now. Another good melody, more building in the background. We get the few seconds of space before the chorus. But is that the chorus or just another verse? That’s a shame as there is no clear and obvious standout chorus. The rest is good, though we probably didn’t need Per’s part.

After All‘ has another quirky Britpop approach. Feels like the start of a sitcom or a kids TV show. It’s fun and silly and nonchalant. This one feels like a sleeper single.

Happy On The Outside‘ has some brief synth beats and swirls which pull back to allow Marie’s vocals through. Atmospheric again, melody focused again. The chorus clearly owes a debt to Coldplay with the way the drums and piano jangle together, but the melodies remain strong. It all seems effortless, though the cynic in me could say they’re treading water and barely trying. I don’t think that’s the case – I think it’s more a case of them finding comfort in music again and re-introducing themselves to the world in the best way they know how.

Sitting On Top Of The World‘ has more synth sounds. Marie in the verse again and more decent verse. That plinky instrumental overlay reminds me of Michael Jackson’s Someone In The Dark from ET. It’s a strong ending, gentle, easy, clean, they’re not breaking any new ground but simply saying ‘hey, we haven’t been around for a while, but we’re back and we’re still doing that thing you like’.

Well, I got more than I asked for. Quite a few songs met my categorization of ‘pretty good’. When they stick to what I feel they are best at – emotive pop – then you know you’ll get some good stuff. When they try to branch out into different styles and approaches it tends to fall to pieces. Here the softer songs are stronger, the weaker tracks reserved more for the upbeat, up-tempo, more rock oriented songs. Also, it’s a consistent album – it doesn’t bounce from sound to sound and style to style, and it’s not bloated like some of their biggest released. As such, there are plenty of songs I’d gladly listen to again. I don’t think any of them come close to their absolute best, but a few drop into the same crowd as their second tier stuff. It definitely works as a comeback album, a reminder that they can still write crowd-pleasing anthems and emotional ballads. It would take sterner critic than me to complain about that, given the length of time they’ve been away and the circumstances surrounding their absence. If you like Roxette, or if at some point you’ve enjoyed their biggest hits, there will be something here to pull you in.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Charm School!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Speak To Me. No-One Makes It On Her Own. I’m Glad You Called. Only When I Dream. Dream On. After All. Happy On The Outside. Sitting On Top Of The World.

The Wisher

*Originally written in 2003

Spliced (Movie Review) | Bloody Good Horror

Another cheap horror movie which borrows heavily from both big and cult hits of the genre, but one which manages to be quite enjoyable even if we have seen it all before. There are some good performances, some not so good, a few typical scares and jokes (some which hit, some which miss), a fair amount of blood, a simple but well executed story, and quite a creepy bad guy. Probably not worth searching for, but worth watching if it is on TV especially if you are a horror fan.

Mary is a teenage girl with a love for horror movies, always searching for the next scare. When she hears about a new film called The Wisher which has been getting good reviews from terrified audiences, she and her friends go to see it, against her father’s wishes. Mary has a habit of sleepwalking which her father believes is caused by all the rubbish she watches. A short time into the movie, Mary vomits and leaves knowing the film is too much for her. After an argument with her father she wishes he would just go away. Soon her father is dead, and Mary believes she keeps seeing the Wisher creature from the movie. She becomes paranoid and after a few more gory events related to what she has innocently wished for, she believes that The Wisher, or someone dressed up as him is stalking her, obsessively carrying out her wishes in the worst way possible. She finds out that the film makers imbued the film with subliminal messages, and thinks that school hunk Brad, who likes her, has been hypnotised by the film. She tries to find a way to reverse the process, planning to watch the film to see how it ended. The Wisher is on to her plan though…

Although everything is pretty predictable there is still enough fun to warrant watching this. There is some cheesy dialogue and effects, and you would think that once you believed that your wishes were coming true you would immediately wish for The Wisher to leave. Liane Balaban is very good as Mary, at times carrying the film on her own, and Ron Silver is good though seems uninterested in a smaller role. The rest of the cast are OK, but the film is quick and never tries to over-achieve. The Wisher itself does look scarier than your typical cheap horror movie bad guy, and the director’s best moments are when the Wisher is stalking in the shadows or on reflections. There is not much heavy violence and nothing is over-the-top. Give it a go if it’s on, but do not expect a masterpiece, just a quick piece of entertainment.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Wisher!

Best Picture – 1980

Official Nominations: Ordinary People. The Coal Miner’s Daughter. Raging Bull. The Elephant Man. Tess.

This should be easy. Forget all of the nonsense about what The Academy wants to vote for, forget all of the nonsense about campaigning and politics and how simple it is to predict what will win based on the rest of Awards Season – all you should focus on is what deserves to win. Naturally that’s about as subjective as things come, which is why I’m a fan of Awards like this either being based on concrete metrics and data, or being made retroactively. I’d be much happier if The Oscars took place at a 2-3 years distance from release date as by that time you would see some of the influence and staying power of a particular film coming through.

Remember The Nightman Scoring System? If you don’t, click that link. That is roughly how films should be evaluated and scored. It’s a little simplistic but you can play around with the categories and make it fit. The system works. If you put these five films through that System, looking at how much money a movie made, looking at performance, directing, music, everything else – I’m fairly certain one movie would be the clear winner. Raging Bull is your clear winner for this year. An artistic, cinematic, and personal achievement, one which changed how we expect actors to perform, and one which acts as straightforward entertainment while not cheapening itself for mass consumption. It’s one of the best movies of the decade, and one of the best movies ever made.

Your second place choice is something you could make most of the same arguments for – The Elephant Man is also a stunning achievement but perhaps less accessible than Raging Bull if only for its subject matter. It’s a shame these came out in the same year – put The Elephant Man out in 1981 and that’s your winner. It’s about as accessible and mainstream as David Lynch gets. We’re left with the also rans. Tess is mainly here on the strength of Polanski’s other work – good film, just not Best Of The Year good. The Coal Miner’s Daughter is Oscar-bait – biography, musical, American Dream stuff. Similar almost to The Elephant Man and Raging Bull except those both upend the fist-pumping American Dream story and format. Again, good film, great lead performance – not year best worthy.

Which leads us to one of the divisive wins in Oscars history – Ordinary People. It’s not exactly spoken in the same breath as Raging Bull these days, but when it is it’s along the lines of ‘how the hell did this beat Raging Bull’. There’s one simple reason, and that reason is that The Academy loves Robert Redford. I’m not going to sit here and bad mouth the movie though – it’s a very good movie. Take Raging Bull and The Elephant Man out and this is your clear winner. It’s another incisive slice-down through, not the American Dream but the American Norm – an affluent family rocked and failing to cope with the death of a family member. It doesn’t need to be two hours long and while Redford’s first time directing is mature and assured, it doesn’t have the immediate or long-lasting impact of Lynch or Scorsese.

My Winner: Raging Bull

Original Raging Bull Movie Poster - Jake La Motta - Martin Scorsese

My Nominations: Raging Bull. The Elephant Man. The Empire Strikes Back. The Shining. The Blues Brothers. Cannibal Holocaust.

Only two of the true nominations make it over to my list, joining an all time infant terrible, an all time horror masterpiece, an all time cult classic, and one of the all time greats regardless of genre. Cannibal Holocaust – there’s no way anyone in their right mind would ever nominate this – it’s cheap, nasty, badly dubbed, and features real life animal cruelty and death. I am clearly not in my right mind, so it goes on the list. The film is unforgettable and parts of it will sneak up on you years later, like a trigger. How many films have had the impact this one had? Not only did it essentially create the Found Footage genre (regardless of whether you feel that’s a positive or negative, it remains a fact) but it also led to a genuine public outcry and Criminal Proceedings where the director had to prove he didn’t murder his cast. No other film on either list, or in 1980 can say the same.

The Blues Brothers is my idea of the perfect musical – the music is actually good, the musical interludes make sense, it doesn’t take itself seriously, plus it’s actually funny and mostly avoids any romance nonsense. Is it Best Of The Year quality…. probably not, but it has taken on that quality of transcending its release and remains a well loved cult favourite. If any Horror movie of the 1980s deserved Academy recognition it was surely The Shining. Frequently at or near the top of any serious list of the Best Horror Movies ever made, plus it was directed by Academy favourite Kubrick and starred Academy favourite Nicholson. This is maybe the glaring omission of the year – did we really need The Coal Miner’s daughter when we already had two better biopics this year? The Shining didn’t receive a single nomination, a travesty with hindsight and giving some weight to the argument that you need some time before trying to aware the best for something as subjective as film.

The final nomination from my side is what most people call ‘the best Star Wars movie’. I prefer Jedi, but I’m in the minority. It ups the ante from A New Hope, expanding the universe and the interweaving stories of each character, it blurs its own narrative constructs of morality and takes the tale far beyond the typical heroic journey, plus it has bad-ass action, a great soundtrack, and has arguably the most impressive and iconic visuals in the entire franchise. As Raging Bull already has my Official Win, I’m handing this one to Empire.

 My Winner: The Empire Strikes Back

Let us know in the comments which movies you would nominate and what your winner would be!

Nightman’s Updated Top 17 Movies Of 1993!

17: Falling Down (US/France/UK) Joel Schumacher

Schumacher continued the 80s success of the likes of The Lost Boys and St Elmo’s Fire into the 90s, with Falling Down probably his best film of the decade. It reinvented Michael Douglas, casting him as a classic anti-hero and the sort of bloke we have all wished we would like to be at some point. Maybe that’s a tad too far, but which of us have not wanted to just say ‘fuck it’ and go on a rampage around the city? Schumacher nails the atmosphere of sweaty 90s LA, a boiling pot of race, pressure, and violence, and manages to make the film action packed, violent, funny, and smart all at once.

16: Mrs Doubtfire (US) Chris Columbus

It’s a family film with its fair share of risque humour thanks to a tour de force performance from Robin Williams. Not all of the jokes land, as it always the case when Williams was given free reign, but when there are so many and when they are delivered with such pace, you barely notice. It’s also another charming watch and kids and older members will find plenty to enjoy.

15: Schindler’s List (US) Steven Spielberg

A contender for the finest war movie ever made, and for the best movie of the decade, Schindler’s List is obviously an exhausting, difficult, but important watch. There are two must watches for everyone on my list today – both are by Spielberg, and this is one of them.

14: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (US) Lasse Hallstrom

Johnny Depp’s star was on the rise, and this was another notch on his bedpost. Lasse Hallstrom was looking for a US hit while Juliette Lewis was another hot property. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was not the sort of film which was ever going to be a hit, but even before it took on a cult status it was clear to any viewer that it was a powerful and humble and perfectly well made and well acted drama. Naturally it was the film which broke DiCaprio, his film stealing performance earning an Oscar nomination. People have maybe forgotten this one now, but with the star power involved its a hidden gem which will continue to be discovered.

13: Cliffhanger (US/France/Italy) Renny Harlin

Arnie had exploded into the new decade making sure that the 80s action hero still had a place in the new, more self aware era. His 90s exploits had not been successful so he found a new action vehicle with up and coming director Renny Harlin. It’s basically Die Hard on a mountain, but it has plenty of action, plenty of violence, a classic batch of hammy villains, and lots of one-liners – in short, everything you want in an action movie, with the added bonus of great scenery and spectacle.

12: Benny And Joon (US) Jeremiah S Chechik

Another offbeat character for Depp to tackle, this is the less mainstream version of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? It’s one of a select few romances or Rom Coms that I hold dear, and another film for people who have maybe forgotten what a great actor Depp is should check out.

11: Dazed And Confused (US) Richard Linklater

Linklater always makes watchable movies, regardless of genre, but his best movies are those which feel like a group of best mates hanging out – with Dazed And Confused being the prime example. Like the movie itself, you can stick it on and just chill. The various characters, the various groups all somehow feel like personal friends and Linklater has a way of making you feel like part of the gang, even as a guy from Northern Ireland who wasn’t alive in the time period predicted. You don’t even need the performances to be good – they are – but you do need the soundtrack and the setting to echo the vibe – it does.

10: The Vanishing (US) George Sluizer

Frequently named as one of the, if not worst, but least most unnecessary and least interesting remakes of all time, The Vanishing still remains for me a gripping and eerie watch. Sure, it’s not as powerful as the original but I saw this one first and those first impressions are hard to shake. Remember, this is a favourites list, not what I think is the best. What I still love about this remake is the cast – Bridges, Sutherland, Bullock, and Travis are all committed and Sluzier does a great job of maintaining the mystery and tension of the original. While the ending is a prime example of Americanisation, I don’t necessarily mind. Sure it would have been cool if they’d shot alternative endings or went with something similar to the original, but the original is still there to enjoy in all its bleak glory.

9: Carlito’s Way (US) Brian De Palma

Carlito’s Way is one of those latter day Mafia movies which was still flying the flag for the sort of violent stylized thriller which would become out of vogue once Pulp Fiction came along. It’s not as good as Goodfellas, and not as memorable as Scarface, but it’s just as engaging with the benefit of being more underseen – get ahead of your mates and stick this one on your movie night list once Lockdown is over and enjoy Pacino, Sean Penn and Leguizamo, acting to Eleven while De Palma cranks up the tension.

8: The Nightmare Before Christmas (US) Henry Selick

I’ve spoken about this movie plenty of times on other lists on this site; it’s great.

7: A Perfect World (US) Clint Eastwood

Clint had been directing for about 80 years by the time he made A Perfect World, and had been acting for roughly 300 years on top of that. His follow up to the universally acclaimed Unforgiven is a light crime drama which I prefer to his masterful Western. I’ve always suspected the light tone came from Kevin Costner’s involvement and that another actor may have brought a more cynical vibe, but Costner and Eastwood were a perfect match and foil for one another, and created one of the least seen finest movies of the 90s. Assuming most reading this list may not be familiar with this movie – it follows two escaped convicts in early 60s Texas who pick up a hostage in the form of a young Jehovah’s Witness boy completely innocent of the ways of the world. What begins is a road movie mixed with coming of age mixed with buddy comedy mixed with violent thriller as Costner learns responsibility from the boy and the boy learns right and wrong from the criminal, all while Texas Ranger Eastwood and criminologist Laura Dern chase them down. It’s an incredibly, unforgivingly (ha) underrated film with a terrific cast, nuanced, funny, touching, and never bogged down by its 2 hour plus running time.

6: Demolition Man (US) Marco Brambilla

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Stallone movies.

5: Last Action Hero (US) John McTiernan

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Arnie movies.

4: Body Snatchers (US) Abel Ferrara

It gets undue hate for not being as good as the 70s or 50s version. Don’t sleep on it. It’s in my favourite movies of the decade list… I think. If it’s not, it’s fantastically grim vision of the famous story with a more claustrophobic setting.

3: True Romance (US) Tony Scott

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

2: Tombstone (US) George P Cosmatos

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

1: Jurassic Park (US) Steven Spielberg

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

Little Trolls

One of Wire’s finest lyrical moments, this one is a savage response to some journalist’s racist attack on the Welsh; if there’s one lesson folks, it’s that you don’t go up against a Manic in a verbal war and hope to win. The lyrics are of course brilliant; funny, perfect one-liners, and Bradfield’s deadpan delivery is spectacular.

Musically there isn’t a whole lot to say – a simple blending of electric and acoustic, notable only because of the little middle section where Bradfield shrieks like a monster. There are easily missed moments of interest – the acoustic guitars feel like they’re being played with a floor brush rather than by hand, and the electric parts are extra fuzzy. The percussion is light in the mix too.

At its core this is a protest song with a simple hook, and you feel like it wouldn’t be as fondly remembered if the lyrics had been unremarkable.

Little Trolls: 3/Good

The Story Of The Song: Critic, writer, Journo, dead guy, A A Gill wrote a piece on Wales and Welsh people in The Sunday Times for some reason. He didn’t think much of the Welsh, and described them as dirty, ugly little trolls and other such jibes. His comments were even reported to the Commission for Racial Equality, to which he responded that he couldn’t care less as the Welsh have said plenty about the English with no comeback. While much of what was said was done in a tongue in cheek manner, the twat clearly had some deep-seated issues with the Welsh which he covered up with the bravado of Trump-supporting Podcaster. Wire didn’t approve of the insults and responded in kind.

Misheard Lyrics: You taste but ridiculous

2: Pay your dues and pay your tolls

3: Live like animals/Live like Hannah Balls/Live like Anna Boulds

Actual Lyrics: Your taste buds ridiculous

2: Pay our dues and pay our tolls

3: Live like cannibals

Let us know what you think of Little Trolls in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Afraid Of Sunlight (Side B)!

Afraid of Sunlight - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! You should be used to how I begin my Part 2 posts by now; Like this.

Out Of This World opens with an atmospheric slow dance reminiscent of the more dreamy Angelo Badalamenti pieces from Twin Peaks. It’s a return to the dark, shadowy style I’m always harping on about but which the band has stepped away from in recent albums. Even on Brave they didn’t quite nail this tone. As such, Out Of This World is probably my favourite song on the album. It’s one of those songs which manages to disguise how Prog it is and how many shifts and movements there are. The key to the disguise is the keyboards running through each phase and connecting the individual pieces. The atmosphere remains consistent even as the mood moves from gloomy and introspective to emotional outbursts. What stood out was that every time a change was coming, I anticipated where the song would go, but then a last gasp about turn would take the music in an unexpected direction. The song is surprising at every turn. It feels like it’s about to end at several points, but instead there’s an instrumental or sound-clip which leads to some new phase. Tonally, I think this one would have fit neatly on Brave but it works perfectly here and acts as something of a centrepiece. At no point does it feel like an 8 minute song because it’s so absorbing, and I only realised how long it was when I began pausing and taking a closer look at each section.

I’ve already mentioned the dark dreamy, almost sultry sway and swoosh of the intro, but the guitars at times reminded me of Radiohead’s Nice Dream. The opening lyric – no matter how many times I hear it I keep expecting H to sing ‘3 AM’ instead of ‘3 hundred’. This soft and moody shuffle leads into a slow but fierce guitar solo – it’s a solo which could have run on but instead is overtaken by the piano intro of the next section. This section is the emotional peak of the song, with H’s pained ‘only love will turn you round’ refrain yanking every last ounce of wrung anguish from the listener. I imagine it’s a completely unrelated stretch, but this did all remind me of the Orpheus and Eurydice story – how Orpheus went to the Underworld to bring his wife back to the land of the living with the warning that if he turned round to look at her once, to make sure she was following him out, then she would be dragged back to hell for ever. Sadly for him, love turned him round and she was lost. Wanky yes, but one of my favourite myths, and we know Prog bands love their myths and legends.

On to what the song actually means – I don’t have a clue. I Googled Blue Bird in the hope that it was the name of Mike Tyson’s yacht or some such balls. In doing so I did find out about the Campbell family’s Bluebird racing vehicles. What that has to do with the rest of the album or anything else, I’ll leave Paul to explain. The lyrics, or at least the opening set, don’t fit at all with what the music makes me feel. When The Beach Boys sing about surfing or cars, the music feels summery and the sort of thing you might listen to while driving beside a beach as people surf. Listening to Out Of This World does not make me think about speedboats, so there must be more to it. Is it equating the chasing of an impossible dream, of a speed record, of living on the edge, to a relationship. That seems like both a stretch by me, and a stretch by the writer if that’s what he’s going for. The last verse may bring the most educated guess – that being in the spotlight and chasing the adulation of an audience is addictive and potentially dangerous, lying somewhere being obsession and a dream.

Afraid Of Sunlight is a much lighter song tonally. If Out Of This World feels like midnight, Afraid Of Sunlight’s synth and shimmering guitars feel like dawn – the peaceful waking of the world. There are drum sounds which I first noticed in this song and which pop up again in later songs which I’m not a fan of. They’re too weak – they sound like a drum machine – and while I get the decision to do this, it’s a sound which gets on my lid. I do enjoy the quiet/loud dynamic which sees the chorus explode in classic chorus fashion – it’s one of the most simple, oldest, yet most effective dynamics in music, separating the two parts of the song, making them more distinct, and encouraging the listener to get hyped for the chorus and relax for the verse. The little vocal bridge/chorus extension peaks like… licking the squishy part of a pavlova before finishing off the crust (?) before leading into a slight instrumental section and the finale. The ‘how do you feel/I will leave you’ build up parts are my standouts, letting loose that particular yearning quality of H’s vocals. I like the song and I have found myself singing it around the house – always a sign that it’s done something right – but I’m not sure if it has the staying power of my favourites.

Lyrically it does bring us back to the idea of driving, not to escape this time but apparently to surrender. There’s the sense of acceptance – of time moving on unaware or uncaring of your actions – and there’s the sense that it’s a guilty conscience pricking at someone to own up to their crime, a Banquo’s ghost backseat driver, prodding and reminding. The ‘spirit rack abuses’ verse is well constructed, the incessant questioning is recalled in the final track, and there’s a neat cyclical nature to the callbacks to Afraid Of Sunrise. 

Beyond You continues the lighter musical tone but also the annoying drum sounds. One other noticeable item (for me) introduced in this song is how I begin to immediately notice similarities with other songs. None of these are intentional, and some of them are impossible (given the song I’m comparing it to had not been written yet), but nevertheless it’s something which leapt out at me in the final songs. For Beyond You the comparison is the little bloopy sounds which come around the ‘don’t want my heart’ vocals – I couldn’t precisely place what these were reminding me of, but my first and best guess was Another Day In Paradise by Phil Collins. And the Commando soundtrack. It’s an 80s bell/synth sound which I think was quite prevalent in the previous decade but something about the few notes showcased here did stir up those comparisons in my first listen.

As we get towards the part of the song about being like a child having a tantrum (more on those lyrics later) there are some drum blasts which reminded me of the boom drums in Every Little Thing by The Beatles. When I listened to both songs alongside each other – they’re not very similar at all, but I can’t shake that comparison. Possibly it’s their placement – the fact that they seem a little out of place and only pop in momentarily, yet the songs would sound weird and have less character if you removed them.

There are a few things about this song which didn’t land for me, beyond the aforementioned drums. The way H sings in the opening feels too much like he’s forcing himself to sing too softly. Whether this was done for deliberate effect – to make him sound more childlike or more deceitful (feigning sadness to manipulate someone), I don’t know. I didn’t get the impression that it was genuine, but I’m almost certainly misreading it. On top of that, some of the more matter of fact lyrics pissed me off. This is entirely a personal thing but I hate it when bands use colloquialisms in their lyrics or write in a day to day/real life example/matter of fact way. You could say that for almost every song ever made and I get that I’m not explaining myself clearly, but lines like ‘I would sit down on the street, kick my legs and scream’ somehow spark some annoyance trigger within me. That whole section in fact. Is it related to the delivery? Is it because it sounds like something someone would say instead of something someone should sing? I’m not saying every lyric needs to be poetry or unique or some disjointed line free from reality, but every so often a line will come along which feels like it belongs in a conversation and not a song. It’s rich coming from someone who writes a blog about music and movies in a conversational manner, but that’s a deliberate choice by me to allow any audience to (hopefully) understand what I’m writing.

Everything else in Beyond You is tasty goodness. I love how the song ends up in a completely different place from where it began and how the volume and intensity increases evenly throughout. H’s vocals grow and get stronger as the song progresses, the mixing of tinkling keys and ghostly synth in the intro is skilful (I’d switch out the drums), and the little cymbal taps taking over from the drums in the middle is a masterful touch, pulling the song back into itself before pushing forwards for the climax. It’s one of the songs I’ve found myself humming or singing least, but the vocal melodies are concert-bait in the best way.

I believe Paul did a bit in one of his interview episodes about this song. That was weeks ago though and given that I wouldn’t be able to answer if someone asked me right now to describe the paint on the walls in any of the rooms in this house I’ve been living in for ten years, I can’t recall how it was interpreted. Does the fact that this song was discussed (at least I think it was this song) mean that it’s an important song in the discography, or that it’s one fans argue over? That opening line I incorrectly heard as ‘If you were a banquet’ and I’m not sure if ‘folds of my heart’ is supposed to be sweet or gruesome. As a whole, the song seems to be about obsession and being unable to move on or even complete every day tasks without freaking out and giving up. Having never been obsessed about a person or a thing to this extent, the only way I can relate is to ideas. As someone who claims to be a creative person, if I have an idea which takes hold, I can’t focus on anything else until that idea has been realised to some degree. You can’t tell from my writing on this blog, but I can be a better than average writer when I put my mind to it. But when I do have an idea which I feel is genuinely strong and interesting – whether it be for a song or story or whatever, the obsession to simply get it out of my brain and onto paper is much stronger than the need for it to be good. No matter how promising the idea is, the moment I’ve jotted down an outline or the central conceit, the obsession vanishes and the need to care about it dissipates. This may be point to the ideas actually being crap and once the basics are written down there’s not a lot more to it, but I think the truth is more that I’m too lazy and/or not good enough to turn an idea or a premise into reality. It also may explain why I currently have 301 draft posts in my blog and why some of those individual posts each contain well over a hundred reviews of books/movies/albums/games/songs etc.

As much as I didn’t enjoy the ‘kick my legs and scream’ lines, the following verse featured my favourite lyrics of the song – a list of feelings and admissions gradually becoming more visceral and potent, from ‘And the feeling comes in waves’ to ‘exhausted and insecure, took all you have and I still want more’. So, it’s about obsession, but is it over a person, is it being obsessed with the limelight? Is it a mixture of both?

King closes the album, but opens with another instance of me immediately thinking about another song. While I don’t think the chords are the same and while I’m hardly a Green Day fan, King sounds an awful lot like Boulevard Of Broken Dreams. The chord structure and vocal melody in Green Day’s (much later) song is so similar that I found myself singing the Green Day song over the verses of King – they fit almost perfectly. It’s all the more unusual because the songs are completely different in every other aspect. It’s one of those once heard never unheard deals, so I’m stuck with it now.

I’d be interested if there’s a radio edit or shorter version of King as there are a few moments which I would shave off to make the song less jarring. The soundbites after the initial guitar intro – get rid – and the long pause of silence towards the end of the song, either scrap it completely or reduce it to a single second. That’s possibly some sort of heresy to longstanding fans but I don’t like empty space in music. Having said that, maybe there is something going on in that empty space that I’ve simply missed because I’m not listening on headphones.

It’s one of the heaviest songs on the album – it never approaches hard rock, but there’s more of an edge to King than most of the other songs, plus the chaos and dissonance and distortion at various points (especially the ending) makes it sound much rougher and more Rock influenced. H is quiet again in the opening verse, but it doesn’t sound forced. He sounds resigned yet accusing, like a disappointed father berating a child for doing something bad after many warnings – ‘Look, I’m not going to shout any more, I told you not to do it, I told you what would happen, and now it has’.

For what is essentially a simple four chord song, the band spice it up and add more complexity and interesting choices – completely removing all instruments from that four chord structure just leaving keyboards and vocals, bringing it bath with single wavering guitar notes like an abridged arpeggio verses the more loose yet traditional guitar tinkering in the opening verse. Even though it’s all repetition of the same structure they do something different on each lap to make the 7 minute running time not feel like 60 seconds of content on a loop. There is of course time for both a guitar and keyboard solo in the middle. It may not be one of my favourites on the album, but it’s an apt closer.

The lyrics remind us of the various motifs and themes of the album – running, fame, guilt, boxing, private self and public self, questions. Assuming it’s H speaking he seems to take on the perspective of that disappointed father/advisor/bystander, asking how long the person can cope with their lies and performance, proclaiming that he hopes ‘for your sake something gets in the way’ in their pursuit of what they want. By proxy, is he talking about himself and the band? By extension, is it all a warning to others hoping to become successful because it all comes with an ‘ensuing, all encompassing mess’? Incidentally, I did appreciate ending one line with ‘mess’ and starting the next with ‘message’. Every good thing is countered by bad; message of love – but there’s so many of them to cope with, there are people to touch, but they all waste away, until finally your choices and free will are taken by strangers. The building of accusations and home-truths with regards to fame becomes one of the more effective and lucid takedowns of fame and success I can remember hearing. The song does appear to become more personal towards the end as it references the writing of songs rather than a boxing match or movies or…. breaking the land speed record. It mentions with a final nail in the coffin – ‘I hope you’ve got what it takes to be spoilt to death’. Like we mentioned in Part One, or possibly in Brave – the chasing and acquiring of fame can be wonderful… but it could end up killing you.

This is one of the first times that I didn’t want to (or couldn’t be arsed to) write about the album, primarily because I was enjoying listening to it so much. I’ve had it on constantly while I’ve been working, and the times I tried to jot down my thoughts I simply listened to it and ended up reading or doing something else instead. This is one of the best examples so far of the band being both accessible and not losing touch of their roots or their creative integrity. It’s an album with the hooks to pull casuals and new listeners in, but enough depth to interest those who want a bit more to their music, while not being as obtuse as their more lengthy prog moments or as much of an emotional challenge as Brave. 

I will admit to eventually tiring myself of the album before coming to solidify my thoughts about it in these posts. I can see why people will rate it highly – it’s certainly one of my favourites by Marillion so far, even if the individual highs may not be as high as on other albums. They experiment without sounding experimental and got most of the novel new sounds and playing around with different genres out of the way in the first two songs. After those opening tracks the album finds its feet in a more cohesive way, eventually gelling and finding a concrete identity, with recurring lyrics, themes, and musical ideas popping up again and again. It’s going to be an album I listen to in the future, but I’ll need a break from it – in the meantime a few of the songs will make it over to my ‘new music’ playlist in the car.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

Hopping over to Episode 3 of the Podcast, Paul prepares us for Sanja asking forbidden questions. I wonder if I have committed any crimes in my post above. Sanja doesn’t like Out Of This World, while it’s my favourite on the album. It’s her least favourite. Paul isn’t a big fan either. As we know, I like dark and atmospheric things and that’s exactly what it does. Am I a traditional Marillion fan because the majority of fans love this one? Hey, I was right about Chelsea Monday so I wait for Paul loving Out Of This World in a few weeks time. Paul’s feelings on the song seem to be influenced by how popular it is, at least considering it’s a Live favourite. Having almost zero experience of this live, I can’t really relate, but I do get the sentiment. You Stole The Sun From My Heart is a perfectly fine Manics pop song – but I can hardly listen to it because it’s played live every time I see them. Turns out Paul doesn’t like the solo much – I like what it does more than what it is if that makes sense.

There is a story behind the song – great, because I didn’t have much of a clue about it beyond the snatched references which I had to Google. If I hadn’t Googled those, I wouldn’t have had much to say about the meaning of the song. So the song is directly about what I mentioned – again, this is a story I had not heard of until Googling. I didn’t know that the soundbites were actual recordings of the dude dying, so that’s nice. Or more appropriately, not. I assumed there was more to it, for such an atmospheric song. Seems the band simply had an affinity for the Campbells and the event. There is of course a rich (?) history of bands playing soundbites of people’s final moments, or clips of their last interview etc. To chuck in another Manics reference, because that seems to be what I do now, The Holy Bible incorporates soundbites from all manner of places, including one of the last interviews with a young woman dying of anorexia, and the mother of one of the victims of Peter Sutcliffe. Not exactly the same thing, but the first examples which leapt out to me.

On to the title track, which Paul says is in the mix for their best song. I liked it a lot more in my early listens but it did take a bit of a beating due to me over-listening to the album. By the time I came to writing about it, my initial love of it had subsided somewhat. Sanja affixes the song into her story of the album, and it fits. Paul agrees that it’s more introspective than Afraid Of Sunrise while I took this less about escape and more like and admission that the person has tried to escape but realised it’s impossible. Which Sanja just paraphrases as I finish the sentence.

The title track and Beyond You are the two Marillion songs which made it on to Paul’s mixtape for Sanja. As such, there’s obvious personal connections to them. It’s always an interesting conversation – which songs would you give to someone to get them into the band, is that different from the type of song you would give to someone whose musical taste you respect, and is it different from what you would give to someone you would like to go on a little date with and hold hands on the way to the Cinema to see Freddy Vs Jason? Slipped into my own personal life then, sorry.

It’s Paul’s favourite on the album, and maybe his favourite Marillion song. H has said he couldn’t play it live because it’s too personal. Fraser Marshall sees the song as a little darker from how Paul does – my interpretation was even further into the darkness reading it clearly as a more unhealthy obsession. The line which Paul and Sanja read as not wanting to leave… but it comes with a caveat… I wouldn’t want to leave if I were a child. He’s not a child, he’s an adult, and sometimes adults have to make other decisions. Am I reaching? Who knows? The only H quote about the song… I can’t say that’s what I felt from the song – I certainly felt the pain and that seems like the most obvious read…. but I definitely took something darker from it. Sanja likes the soft vocals… as I said that did feel forced for me, which fits with my more cynical read. Before Paul and Sanja rip me for not loving it as much as they did – this was another which I liked a lot more before too many listens dulled it for me.

Neither of the guys are overly fond of King. I’m of roughly the same opinion – it’s fine, a good closer, but in a few weeks time I won’t remember much about it while I’ll still be singing Out Of This World. Paul thinks this may be their heaviest song – the chaos at the end does come close to the noisier elements of Rock – and has come to appreciate it more revisiting for the podcast. I think it does suffer by coming after three much stronger songs, and I think the lyrics are more interesting than the music – even if the music is spiced up with the little variations I talked about earlier. Sanja gives an interesting take – previous dark albums ended with more uplifting songs while this one doesn’t. I don’t know if I would say this album ends in the same place as where it begins – I see King more as a comeuppance and a warning and a suggestion that ‘hey, you wanted the fame, you invited the monster into your home, well you got what you wanted so now live with it’. I think that’s a cool sentiment to end on, the hero becoming the villain over the course of the movie, Tony Montana floating in a pool of blood or Michael Corleone closing the door on the woman he loves.

H was heavily influenced by Kurt Cobain’s death in the writing of the album, as Paul reads a quote. I didn’t know that little snippet of history about Marillion being the first band to play on the same stage where the last Nirvana gig took place. With that, we’re done. I know there’s an interview with John Arnison which I haven’t listened to yet, and there seems to be some other bonus eps. I’ll listen to those, but I don’t think I’ll be writing about them which should give me a chance to catch up on all these other non-Marillion albums I’m meant to be listening to.

Let us know what you think about Afraid Of Sunlight, as always make sure to go listen to BYAMPOD yourselves, and don’t forget – Spread em!

Nightman Listens To – Judas Priest – British Steel (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

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Greetings, Glancers! I realise it hasn’t been that long since my previous (first) Judas Priest album, but I’m following Martin Popoff’s list chronologically and he seems to have a thing for men in leather. British Steel is of course an album I’ve heard of and it frequently hovers near the top of the Heavy Metal Premier League. I don’t know much about the album, and in these reviews I want go in with limited knowledge so that I don’t add any further bias. I do look at the album cover and the tracklisting – the cover is very familiar to me, and I’ve heard a couple of the songs – at least two are metal classics familiar to most metal fans of a certain age. The cover is fine – not quite iconic, not embarrassing, though I could have done without the cute little spiked bracelet. Then again, this is Judas Priest. I mostly enjoyed my last JP outing so I’m hoping for a similar positive experience today. Lets do this.

‘Rapid Fire’ gets us off (matron) to an almost blistering start. Simple guitars, furious drums, plain vocals and melodies. They repeat the main chord slide as if it’s some revelation, but it’s one of the first things you try when you learn power chords. They discard this thankfully for some more intricate solo play in the next section, but bring it back for the final stages. Halford finally shows his pipes on the last note and some stormy percussion takes over, leading into…

‘Metal Gods’ – a slower song. It’s very plain again and doesn’t make any interesting choices until the synth-like singing of metal gods before the decent solo. It isn’t notably forceful or melodic, but it does allow for the sound of a whip cracking which always raises a giggle.

‘Breakin The Law’ is of course a classic. It’s one of the most famous metal songs of all time, in that people who don’t listen to metal know it. They get away with the chanting nature of the chorus by not shouting it, by not making it melodic. It’s a literal chant, and all the more musical and memorable for it. It has a great riff and the verses and bridges are melodic, and it’s both short and punk-driven rather than trying to pulverize you. Then the lyrics compliment that rebellious streak which Metal is supposed to embody, in a cheery 80s sort of way.

‘Grinder’ has a driving bass and beat and that unique 80s way of conveying masculine swagger. It’s another song which sacrifices speed for stomp and doesn’t go out of its way to provide a vocal hook. The main chord line is fine again – very simple and doesn’t leap out.

‘United’ is the slowest song yet. It still stomps. It has the most bizarre chorus – it’s ridiculously cheesy and soft – I get the message they’re going for, but it feels like Queen via Westlife through an ill-advised football chant. It’s truly awful, but props for trying something like it. The pre-chorus isn’t as bad, but seriously, wtf?

‘You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise’ sounds more promising. Props to the clean production – everything is crisp, clear, and meaty. This 30 second intro already feels more like an anthem than whatever that last disaster was. Halford at least sounds like he’s biting on this one, wrapping his gums around the words and spicing them up. There’s a touch of AC/DC here, which can either be a very bad thing, or not so bad, and Halford goes a little Plant at times. It’s not the fastest son in the world, something as a whole the album seems to lack.

‘Living After Midnight’ is another famous one. Could be another case of an album being acclaimed because of a couple of hit singles. That’s the way these things usually go. It’s not as good as Breaking The Law, but it’s a fun metal-lite song, catchy, and the sort of song people who don’t like metal can mistakenly head-bang to.

‘The Rage’ opens with bass plonking all over the place, then it sounds like they’re going reggae, then the crunch sweeps both away. Halford sounds more keen on this one too. Decent solo, back to the reggae, back to the crunch. It’s not bad.

‘Steeler’ is the fast song I’ve been waiting for. A quick check lets me know this album came before Screaming For Vengeance, so maybe they hadn’t quite latched on to the speed angle yet? This proves they have the chops – the drums and guitars outshine most of the rest of the album, though it’s not the most creative and the melodies aren’t there. I can tell the influence this had on other British bands of the era.

Well, that was a disappointment considering how I felt about Screaming. Aside from the two songs I knew going in, the rest of it seems and sounds average. Maybe because I’ve heard so much metal in the years since this was released this feels very tame. Tame and lacking in creativity and energy. Still, it’s obvious they can play, it’s obvious they can write a hit, it just seems that they needed another couple of years to hone in on their most potent skills. It’s not a bad album – distinctly average in the grand scheme of things, and a let down because of the hype.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Breaking The Law. Living After Midnight. Steeler.

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time – Across The Universe – The Beatles

I’ve been putting together a post about my favourite Beatles songs for years now, but I just can’t be arsed finishing it. Every few months I go back to it and add a few more entries. I think I’m almost done, but it looks like this post will beat that one to the punch. Spoiler alert – Across The Universe is on that post. But that’s in the future, maybe, and this is now, maybe (ha, no, you did post that list first, and now you look like a fool – you fool!).

Across The Universe comes along fairly late in the careers of The Beatles. Appearing on Let It Be in 1970 I’ve always viewed it as their swan song, their final great. The song actually appeared in its original form on a charity compilation album one year earlier called Nothing’s Gonna Change Our World, with the song itself being written a year before that. While there are obvious differences between the two, both feature the dreamy Lennon vocals and lyrics and a trippy production. If anything the original feels more like an experiment than a song, with swirling guitars at different levels and high-pitched backing vocals. I think it’s sweeter, more folk driven. It’s the Let It Be version I love though, and the one most people know.

Lennon’s lyrics run the gamut from simplistic cat calls to sophisticated and nonsensical humour, but for my money Across The Universe is his best lyric. Every line flows so neatly and read from a page or a screen without music, it sounds musical. Of course when mixed with with the dreamlike music and Lennon’s drawling delivery, the lyrics take on a heightened quality and propel the song to heavenly heights. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that there isn’t a lot of room for the music to breathe alongside the lyrics – each line has so many words and Lennon sings them so slowly that he just about gasps the final syllable just as melody ends and the next begins. There are any number of immortal lines, from the simple and eternal ‘nothing’s gonna change my world’ to the world expanding ‘jai guru deva om’, from the opening ‘words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup’ to the ending ‘limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns’ – it feels like the end of something; a farewell, yet a hopeful reminder that nothing ever truly fades or dies.

The song’s opening is unassuming, an almost mundane collection of lazy chord strokes which belies the emotional undercurrent. In spite of the slurring melodies and hazy vocal delivery, that undercurrent comes to the fore, aided by brief string swells and choirs and tamburas until it peaks with the transcendent feeling the band had been hunting for in their last series of albums. As perfect as the Let It Be version is, the song didn’t turn out how John wanted it to. He felt the above observations were to the detriment of the song and wanted it to be tidied and polished before release, with better vocals and playing. I’m sure that version would have been good too, but what we have is near perfection.

As with every Beatles song, there are a multitude of covers to get through – everything from angsty upstart Fiona Apple, to red-headed harangue-Queen of Air Hostesses Cilla Black, as well as David Bowie. None touch The Beatles version(s).

Let us know what you think of Across The Universe in the comments!

Life

Life movie review & film summary (2017) | Roger Ebert

If movies have taught us anything, it’s that travelling to space will either lead to jolly adventures with feisty bikini clad Princesses and furries, or gruesome/slimy/explosive death. Life explores the second option, placing the viewer in a realistic present day landscape rather than the not too distant future of Alien – one of several movies it is more than inspired by. By camping us inside the orbital real world ISS alongside a skeleton crew of cross-continental familiar faces, yet giving us fleeting glimpses of what is happening back home – births, parades, cute kids asking cute questions – Life aims to alarm us into thinking what if the guys up there right now discover something hostile?

We join our crew of six as they collect soil samples from Mars which may contain evidence of <insert title here>. Turns out there is life out there, of the single celled variety, and turns out the cell just needs a touch of glucose to get it up in the morning. One taste of sugar and the little bastard begins sprouting, stretching, and expanding. Like all babies, translucent or otherwise, it wants to explore and wreck shit. Once named (by some cute Earthlings), Calvin crushes his daddy’s hand, yeets out, and begins an adolescent rampage. While the film has rightly been called an inferior mixture of Gravity and Alien, it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s a retelling of every parent’s experience with a toddler ever, with more CG. Like every movie set in space, there’s a frantic race against time, lots of clamouring to solve impossible problems, and people picked off one by one as they fight for survival and try to prevent the ever growing, increasingly wobbly Calvin making his way to the good ol’ US of Earth.

It’s a fine watch from start to finish, without really offering anything new. It feels more like a case of updating every aspect of the movies it apes; updated special effects, updated creature effects, updated dialogue – everything to make the film more appealing to today’s audience. The only time the movie puts its neck on the line is with its ending – a refreshingly un-Hollywood ending but one you know is coming so that, once again, it comes as no surprise and dilutes any shock value it was meant to generate. Most attempts at fleshing out each character – and to the film’s credit it does try to do this – most of these attempts feel trite and not genuine. Rather than any individuality, the film offers a stock archetype and then gives each one a single thing which marks them as different from the other. Sanada is Japanese, and has a kid on the way. There’s the disabled dude who, for some reason, becomes obsessive at bringing Calvin to life, Gyllenhaal is calm and cold, but is perfectly happy living in Space, Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds etc. Each aspect totalled up amounts to a perfectly average film – if you haven’t seen Alien or Gravity then maybe this will have more of an impact on you and for a night in it passes the time without forcing you to think or become too invested, while equally staving off the boredom.

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