Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2009!

Greetings, Glancers! As they say in Pointless, it’s time to come back down the line. Yes, it’s time to go back through my favourite movies by year lists and update them with additional thoughts and information to expand beyond simplified originals, starting with 2009 and working backwards towards 1950.

Lets begin briefly with those who almost made the cut. Although we’re now ten years plus removed from 2009, the year was always going to be remembered for one movie above all – the all conquering Avatar. While we continue to wait for the next blue tinted extravaganza from James Cameron, time has been kind enough to the film. It still looks glossy and the 3D technology involved is still a marvel. The story was never very interesting first time around and it quickly collapsed into Transformers Vs Jurassic Park, but it remains one of the most important spectacles in Cinema history. It’s not one I will see myself revisiting often as time goes on but you can’t go without experiencing it at least once.

Harry Brown is like Get Carter for pensioners – or Get Off My Lawn. Capitalizing on much of the fear of ‘hoodies’ and society’s post millennium breakdown and paranoia it tells the satisfying story of an ex marine, now elderly man living in a run down council estate. Having lived through many years of war and violence you’d expect him to be enjoying his twilight years in luxury, but instead he has to deal with gangs and hoodies and chavs who prevent him from seeing his wife in her dying moments. With the police unable to help and refusing to end his days in fear, he goes on the warpath. It’s all a little right wing in the vein of Michael Winner, but I’ve always had a soft spot for vigilante movies – who hasn’t wanted to flip out and beat the shit out of a gang of scumbags or bullies? The cast certainly helps elevate matters – Michael Caine hasn’t been this badass since the 70s and a host of GOT faces will be familiar. There is the usual assortment of go-to thugs who have made a career of these types of roles – Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, Ben Drew, and Joseph Gilgun all give committed performances. There were quite a few films of this ilk at the time, from Eden Lake to Gran Torino and director Daniel Barber went on to helm the Hailee Steinfeld/Brit Marling ‘Western’ The Keeping Room which is always well worth a look.

Moon is a film I was interested in from Day One, but took a few years to actually see. It’s Sam Rockwell alone (mostly) on the Moon near the end of his three year term as the only living worker maintaining a mining facility. It would be entering spoiler territory to give away anymore of the plot, but if you’ve seen the obvious influencers – Silent Running, Solaris, 2001, then you won’t be too far off what unfolds if you were to hazard a guess. It’s an opportunity once more for some moral and philosophical wondering under the guidance of Duncan Jones and writer Nathan Parker who specializes in this sort of high concept hard genre stuff. Rockwell is terrific and it was a little misguided when he was overlooked at The Oscars.

District 13 Ultimatum is… well, if you liked the original (and you should), it’s more of the same. This series has some of the best physical action you’re likely to find, taking the visceral quality of the Bourne movies and throwing in copious amounts of parkour. Both films have me wanting to leap out the living room window and begin tearing my way through the neighbours gardens – over walls, through bushes, up drainpipes and bounding from rooftoop to rooftop. Bringing back both David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli from the original we see quickly that the French ghetto is still in bad shape, with rival gangs fighting over filling the gap left after the events of the original. Again there are plenty of obvious allusions to political situations but we cam here for the action and it doesn’t disappoint. If you’re bored of superheros and CG and building crashing to the ground this will revitalize your interest in action.

Up is yet another near perfect movie from Pixar. I don’t love it as much as most people do and its best moments are in that opening, but it’s still a lovely tale about dreams and friendship that it’s hard to criticize. My only issue with the recent Pixar and Disney animations is the ‘chubby’ nature of the art – almost every film and character follows this style and even by the time Up was released it was long past time for a change – a change which neither Company has made since.

Bruno is exactly what you would expect if you’ve already seen Borat or the Ali G Show. It’s basically a carbon copy of Borat but with a different character – an excuse to ridicule the vain, the stupid, and the generally right wing. It’s offensive, it’s hilarious and the only reason I don’t enjoy it as much as Borat is that Borat is such an endearing character, in spite of being a terrible human. My wife’s parents loved Borat – they had to switch Bruno off within ten minutes. Ok boomer comes to mind.

District 9 got a lot of positive reaction this year, critics suddenly deciding that genre movies were worth discussing as long as they had a political subtext, however on the nose it may be. Never mind the fact that horror and sci-fi have always done political subtext better than almost any other genres. I came for the gore and the swearing and the ludicrous over the top performance by Sharlto Copley. I like the low budget creative approach and the fact that the aliens aren’t what we were used to seeing, and the descent to action in the final sections feels like a fun payoff. Again, I don’t think it’s as good as the praise it received at the time, but I’d take something like this over almost every other Best Picture nominee this year. Finally, The Road possibly should have been nominated in that category – a bleak and uncompromising take on McCarthy’s book with a great lead performance by Viggo Mortensen. John Hillcoat follows the approach he showcases in The Proposition and makes it a film well worth re-watching.

Just one final late entry, which probably should have made it into my original Top Ten, but I somehow overlooked that it came out in 2009 – The House Of The Devil. It’s a great slasher throwback, and everything simply works.

Now into the top ten.

10: Dead Snow (Norway) Tommy Wirkola

2009 was peak, or end of peak zombie renaissance territory, and even then most viewers were tired of the whole shtick. Enter Tommy Wirkola who smashes fun back into the genre which had become a little too serious. Dead Snow is one big episode of Wile E Coyote And Road Runner – a natural stepson of Braindead if not Evil Dead. The pitch is great – what if a gang of Nazi soldiers who had been frozen in the mountains woke up again in an undead search for gold? Actually, that’s not great, but it is hilarious. To set up the story we throw in your standard Cabin In The Woods tropes – friends staying in the wilderness for a weekend with all of their relationship crap and then unleash the zombie Nazis. The film neatly balances the shocks and humour and goes wildly overboard with the gore and kills to satisfy any gore-hound. While the cast and characters are almost irrelevant, Vegar Hoel impresses as a modern day Euro-Ash and expands upon that role to ridiculous levels in the sequel. It’s just silly, mindless fun with particularly chunky gore effects.

9: The Princess And The Frog (US) Disney

Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer hand drawn. It largely avoids the aforementioned chubby animation and just feels more tactile and committed. I’m not discounting the work CG animators perform, but when I see hand drawn it simply pulls me in more and gives me a greater sense of the the person behind the creation and the love and care which went into the work. The Princess And The Frog is yet another lovely, simple story from Disney – it’s them going a little meta, recognizing the tropes they helped perpetuate, and having fun turning them around. The voodoo setting and the first African American Princess are all positives, the voice work is particularly strong with the likes of Keith David, Anika Noni Rose, and Jim Cummings standing out. The songs may not be the huge hitters which translate well to the charts, but Almost There joins the ranks of classics which the Company has created over the decades and there are enough sentimental and scary moments to make it memorable. It’s not top tier Disney for me, but it’s in that large and wide B Grade territory where much of their material resides.

8: Micmacs (France) Jean Pierre Jeunet

I’m not sure why this film flew under the radar so much. It’s the director of Amelie making another utterly charming and quirky comedy drama, complete with all of the visual flair he is known for. It deserves a hell of a lot more recognition and while it’s no Amelie, that’s a bit like saying Heat is no The Godfather. It has that exaggerated colour scheme not quite comic book look which you’ll be familiar with from Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, and several of his usual cast members pop up, from Dominique Pinot to Urbain Cancellier.

The film follows a man who seems to be incredibly unlucky when it comes to weaponry – first his dad is killed by a landmine, then he is shot in the head by a stray bullet at work one day. Becoming something of a freak due to the bullet remaining in his head, he joins a group of similar outcasts who happen to live in a junkyard – a contortionist, a maths genius, a human cannonball etc – he has a history in mime. Essentially they become their own circus and they plot to get revenge on the weapons manufacturers who are causing so much grief in the city and around the globe using their unique talents not unlike The A Team. It’s all very charming, fast-paced yet gentle, and is one of the more unique comedies you’re likely to catch – old fashioned yet with a dark satirical streak. Something like this is always more interesting to me than generic rom coms or alpha male comedies.

7: Jennifer’s Body (US) Karyn Kusama

Karyn Kusama doesn’t make many movies, but each one is worth watching – maybe with the exception of Aeon Flux. I kept away from Jennifer’s Body – assuming it was another generic teen horror with a cast picked for their looks rather than their talents. If you’re in the same misguided mindset as I was, consider that it was written by Diablo Cody – Juno, Tully, Young Adult – and very much follows the dialogue and smarts of those movies. The film made me a supporter of Megan Fox – she’s great in this – and also features Adam Brody, Amanda Seyfried, and JK Simmons. It’s a film which has seen some deserved re-evaluation since the mauling it received at the time – when I watched it a couple of years after release I couldn’t believe that so many critics, and myself, had been so wrong.

Seyfried is your typical awkward teenager, ironically (?) called Needy whose best friend is her polar opposite – Jennifer, the popular cheerleader. Best friends since they were young children, the film truly captures the urgency and closeness and ‘us against the world’ feeling you have with such intense friendships when you’re young. Unfortunately, Jennifer seems to pick up some sort of disease which turns her into a killing (eating) machine impervious to harm. Naturally the friendship becomes strained.

The film ticks all of the boxes for horror fans – it’s bloody, some kills are inventive, and its funny. But at its core it’s a character piece – we care about the two leads, the writing is so sharp and the performances endearing that it’s difficult not to see yourself in them. The film is largely told in flashback too, but I’m not sure if that was a conscious decision to allow the audience to reminisce – it seems more likely that teens are the core audience, but ten years later the script still works. It also works as a take down of macho tropes and of some of the seedier aspects of masculinity.

6: Antichrist (Denmark/France/Germany/Italy/Poland/Sweden) Lars Von Trier

Lars man… who never know what you’re going to get with a Lars Von Trier movie, but on the flip side you always know exactly what you’re going to get. Controversy, and a whole lot of messed up shit. And recently – lots and lots of talking. Antichrist starts off in a tame enough way – a couple are shagging while their infant child takes a stroll out of their upstairs window and topples to his death. Naturally, this is all filmed in glorious, beautiful slow mo in a disconcertingly tender way. This intro kicks off the remainder of the plot – the grieving parents cope (or don’t) in their own ways, with the husband (Willem Defoe) a therapist electing to take his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to a good old cabin in the woods where he can treat her personally. Things… don’t go to plan.

This being Lars, the film doesn’t simply descend into the torture and mutilation the tabloids would have you believe. No, we have our usual lengthy insights into the human psyche, merging philosophical jargon, music, literature, history, and manic foxes. Reality gradually becomes skewed, dark believes and fears carve their way out from beneath the skin, and scissors come into play. If you’re familiar with the turn the last act of The House That Jack Built takes, that’s quite similar territory to the final stages of Antichrist. You probably won’t want to re-watch this one, but every movie fan owes it to themselves to see it once. You can say the same for any Von Trier film – every one is worth seeing.

5: Trick R Treat (US/Canada) Michael Dougherty

Horror fans and Halloween go hand in hand, with movie marathons on the day or in October being a staple of each passing year. The same films come up each October – Halloween being the most obvious choice, but Trick R Treat deserves to be second on that list. It’s such a fun, creepy anthology – the stories just the right length and with the right festive tone and variety. Hell, there’s even a new mascot in Sam. Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, and Dylan Baker all feature, but it’s director Michael Dougherty who ties it all together. With only the Godzilla sequel and Krampus to his name in terms of directing, this is his best work. Even if you don’t enjoy horror, there is something here for everything – even the most ardent anti-horror watcher still succumbs at Halloween, and this is perfect for everyone.

4: Triangle (UK/OZ) Christopher Smith

Another terrific little mind-bending, overlooked horror movie with a great premise. Firstly, Christopher Smith has been hit or miss for me – mostly hit. Creep was a disappointment, not making use of a great location, Severance was sort of fun but inconsequential, and Black Death was very good. Triangle is his most ambitious and enjoyable movie.

Having Melissa George in any movie is a plus – a modern scream queen who generally picks better material than most. She stars as Jess, a single mum who is heading out for a boat trip with friends. They hit a storm and lose their boat but stumble upon a deserted liner. Although the liner is seemingly unmanned, there is fresh blood and various signs of people having been there very recently. As the friends search, they suspect they are not alone and we fall into a slasher style one by one pick off march. Except nothing is quite what it seems and without getting too much into spoiler territory, some time-looping stuff happens.

I usually enjoy these sort of high concept horror movies – there have been quite a few which take or twist a similar premise recently – TimeCrimes and Coherence being another couple I would recommend. If the snapshot above doesn’t interest you, possibly the fact that Liam Hemsworth is in a supporting roles might? It is a twisting affair which should be of more interest to non-horror fans and it raises a lot of questions which The Babadook would later be heralded for. It’s one of the best horror movies of 2009 and one of the more challenging and unique of the decade.

3: Inglourious Basterds (US/Germany) Quentin Tarantino

After Kill Bill, Quentin began slowing things down for himself – he’s pretty much a one film every 4-5 years kind of guy now. For years he had been dropping hints about making a WWII movie, his own Dirty Dozen and in 2009 it dropped – instantly becoming everything we would have wanted. It’s vintage Tarantino in style – vignettes, time-jumps, quotable one-liners, speeches, and set-pieces. He rips up the history book and makes his own alternate version of WWII and populates it with plenty of sinister character types – yes, none of the people here feel real, they’re more like heightened stereotypes. Brad Pitt is more fun than he’s ever been and Christoph Waltz is a revelation. After this Tarantino went on a bit of a down turn for me – Django was fine, The Hateful Eight was less than that. But this remains great – not Pulp Fiction great, but almost, and just as watchable.

2: Drag Me To Hell (US) Sam Raimi

Sometimes when you’ve been out of the game for so long, you just lose it. While Sam Raimi had hit a commercial peak with his Spiderman movies, something was calling out to him from beyond, a niggling rat gnawing at his creative cortex and saying ‘blood, cats in mouths, hoofed demons, vomit geysers’. Thankfully for us he embraced that voice and gave us one of the most fun film experiences of the year – a return to his slapstick horror roots with a film which both judders, disgusts, and tears belly laughs deep from within.

The films stars Alison Lohman (who is wonderful here) as a sympathetic loan worker who, against her own morals, refuses to pay out to a gypsy woman begging for her help. She wants that promotion you see, and her selfishness and annoyance at being seen as the whipping boy forces her to be harder than she normally would. After work, the gypsy attacks and curses Lohman’s character. Over the next few days she is tormented by attacks, nightmares, and visions and realizes the curse is true – finding out that if she does not find a way to reverse the curse she will be, literally, dragged to hell within three days. Cue mouth cats and vomit.

Raimi is having a whale of a time here – sure he employs plenty of cheap shocks but they mostly work – his mojo has not been lost and the film’s shocks are an antidote to the morose and stale torture porn of the time. Lohman is backed by the ever reliable Justin Long, with Dileep Rao providing some of the lighter moments. Horror doesn’t get much more fun than this.

1: Orphan (US/Canada/Germany/France) Jaume Collet Serra

My number one is the only film from this year which made it into my favourite films of the decade list – click the link to read my more detailed thoughts on it. It’s just a dirty little horror film raised by an exceptional performance from Isabelle Fuhrman who I feel should have got an Oscar nod. Of course that would never happen, but it is easily one of the best performances of the year. The film is more than just that performance, its creepy, has a neat twist, and also features Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard. Highly recommended, as everything else here is.

Let us know your picks in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Movies By Year List!

I promised I wouldn’t do it, but if you didn’t know by now I’m something of a liar. A couple of years ago I posted a series of Top Ten movies lists by year, and they were just that – a list of my ten favourite movies of the year with no gloss, no explanation, no guff. For those who like to get into the nitty gritty, I then wrote my favourite movies of the decade posts in which I did go into detail about why I loved what I loved. The purpose of the list posts was just to give a simple snapshot of what I enjoy without verbose embellishment; a quick snack before bed.

Now I’m going to go back to those Top Ten Lists and do the embellishment. I’m not going to change the ordering or add or drop my choices – I’m simply going to add a few lines about why I love the movies and maybe encourage anyone who hasn’t seen them to give them a shot. And because I like talking about what I like. Rather than starting with 1950, I’m going to go backwards from 2009. In addition, I might complete the original series by adding simple lists from 2010 – 2019. I still don’t feel I’ve seen enough movies in these last nine years to create lists which I can standby, but at least they’ll act as a current snapshot.

So, for anyone who likes to ready my ramblings or who has been waiting for me to cover in greater detail some of my picks – the time has come. Also, remember this post? It was my argument over ‘Essential’ being a subjective term when it comes to movies, because as viewers we have our own needs and desires and backgrounds – so to decide what is Essential you must first define the viewer? Yes, it’s as crap as it sounds. I’m going to begin posting some of my lists based upon that notion – essentially (sorry) looking at some of the most beloved movies of each year, starting in 1960, and arguing if they are truly essential (spoiler alert – they’re not).

That’s that then. If you like what I do, tell your friends. Recommend my humble blog to the guy who keeps coughing on your commute to work. Tell your da that you have some new toilet reading material for him. I’m not earning money from any of this, but knowing I have billions of followers is bound to be an ego boost and might even make me put a bit more effort in to what I write.

Lies.

Ranking The Manics Songs – Postcards From A Young Man

Golden Postcards

Ten albums – not many bands make it that far these days, and certainly not with the same level of consistent success and quality. And this album is now ten years old and the band is still going. That’s one of the many reasons to love them. This album, described as their ‘last shot at mass communication’, has many moments of pop goodness and embraces some choice and unusual influences (Gospel and Motown) while not relinquishing their central roots. Sadly, this was one of the main instances of the band simply picking the wrong songs to be singles – but luckily there were still three and therefore a bunch of alternatives to ponder over. Here is my ranking:

  1. I Think I’ve Found It
  2. All We Make Is Entertainment
  3. Golden Platitudes
  4. Don’t Be Evil
  5. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
  6. Hazelton Avenue
  7. It’s Not War
  8. The Descent
  9. Auto-Intoxication
  10. The Future Has Been Here 4Ever
  11. Postcards From A Young Man
  12. Some Kind Of Nothingness

My main issue with a lot of the B-Sides around this time and till today, is the reliance on uninspired instrumentals and Nicky vocals. I managed to replace one song with a B-Side for my fantasy tracklist:

  1. It’s Not War
  2. Postcards From A Young Man
  3. Broken Up Again
  4. The Descent
  5. Hazelton Avenue
  6. Auto-Intoxication
  7. Golden Platitudes
  8. I Think I’ve Found It
  9. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
  10. All We Make Is Entertainment
  11. The Future Has Been Here 4Ever
  12. Don’t Be Evil

I toyed with adding I’m Leaving You For Solitude or Midnight Sun, but they don’t really fit the grandiose nature of the album. This seems like a respectable album. Let us know what your ranking would be!

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! 40-21

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Part Two of my reaction to Rolling Stone’s Greatest 100 Musical Acts Of All Time. Click here for part one and part two Otherwise….

40. Simon And Garfunkel

As mentioned in post one, I haven’t discussed the ordering of this thing at all. I’ve no idea what their ordering criteria is but at the moment it doesn’t seem like there is one at all. Until we get to the top five of course and see Elvis, The Stones, and The Beatles. I always assumed I would like Simon And Garfunkel. Then I listened and posted about one album – the first of theirs I’d heard – and it wasn’t great. I’ve since listened to another album which was better. The jury’s still out on how I feel about them, but I know most people are fans.

39. David Bowie

Speaking of the Jury still being out… I understand and appreciate how much Bowie brought to music and how many artists he inspired and how he did his own thing for decades. I’m annoyed I don’t like him more – the glam stuff does nothing but irritate me and I’m generally not moved by his vocals. There are plenty of songs I love and plenty I like, but maybe the time for me to truly love him has passed.

38. John Lennon

His work with The Beatles would be enough to top any list. Then he did ten years of solo work, most of which I haven’t heard. It’s probably not as good as The Beatles, but probably not far behind.

37. Roy Orbison

When I was young I took one look at Orbison and said ‘naw’. But then you hear him sing, and you hear him play, and you get it. He wasn’t some knock off Elvis, he was his own thing and I much prefer his voice to The King’s. His songs have lasted too.

36. Madonna

Bitch, she’s Madonna. Mad as a bottle of snakes and might just pour them over you, but show me another artist who’s had her longevity and success and hits. You can’t. You can tear apart her vocals or her politics or certain creative or musical choices, but when you look at the best hits of her vast body of work, you can’t help but be in awe.

35. Michael Jackson

Probably the greatest voice in all of music, probably the greatest entertainer of all time. In the beginning it was all about his voice and style – how cute he looked, how he danced, how he sang. Then he branched out from his brothers and more success. Then he branched out on his own and became the biggest thing in the world. All through that time he was writing his own stuff and honing his perfectionist style. There has never been anyone like Michael, and there likely never will be again.

34. Neil Young

I’m still waiting for that thing to make me like Neil Young music. It must be there.

33. Everly Brothers

Fair enough.

32. Smokey Robinson And The Miracles

Smokey is such an underrated writer, but with The Miracles he was able to get his best work across. I still find it amazing that Smokey was around before Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and The Beatles, and he’s still going.

31. Johnny Cash

Everybody loves Johnny Cash. Me? Not so much. It’s another example of appreciation rather than enjoying the music. It may be dark, on occasion, but it’s still Country. And Gospel too, which is worse. A unique figure though.

30. Nirvana

Everything I wanted and needed in a band when I was young; everything the music industry needs now. Nirvana wasn’t just grunge, rock, metal, punk, pop, whatever – it was a rare concoction of fury, intelligence, wit, integrity – you listen to any interview with them at the time, you watch any performance – no matter how fucked up they were they played with more intensity and feeling and passion than anyone else. I don’t care if you were Metallica or The Beatles or Yngwie Malmsteen or Pavarotti, Nirvana were going to blow you off the stage and make you look like amateurs. Then they’d destroy the stage and fuck off. A complete nobody came from nothing and changed the lives of millions. There have been few greater losses to the musical world than when Kurt ended his life.

29. The Who

On stage in their prime there was nobody like The Who. Complete maniacs. Off stage too. Luckily they had the chops and prowess to pull it off. They had the balls to make shit like Tommy and Quadrophenia, grand sweeping stories which had great songs in the mix. And they would throw out amazing anthems like My Generation and Baba O’Reilly too.

28. The Clash

One of the first punk bands I got into, but my relationship with punk has almost always been surface – I’ll dip in and out when I need quick blast on how powerful music can be. It’s not just about the notes, it’s about the raw passion, the need to express yourself, or tell a story, or connect with an audience. The Clash could connect while also writing simple, catchy songs. They went and experimented with a tonne of other styles – most of which was not to my taste – but all the while they remained true to their vision of self.

27. Prince

I get he’s a good writer and a multi-talented musician. The music does little to nothing for me. I don’t find it sexy, it doesn’t make me want to dance, it doesn’t inspire me to listen or create or procreate. Hands up once more – I still haven’t heard much from him outside of some of his hits. He apparently has a million songs. Some of them are bound to pop up in my other series.

26. The Ramones

I’ve always found The Ramones to be on the silly side of punk. That’s not to say they’re not authentic, just that it’s hard to take a lot of their stuff seriously. They still play with fury but more often than not it’s the fury of a kitten trying to attack my hand – charming, fun, entertaining to be part of, but ultimately harmless.

25. Fats Domino

I mean, it’s Fats Domino. He was good, influential, but there’s a cultural and historic divide which will likely never be bridged to make me truly align with most of his stuff. I’ll listen, but I won’t think about it much.

24. Jerry Lee Lewis 

I’ll take him over Elton any day.

23. Bruce Springsteen

The nicest man in rock, or maybe the most genuine (assuming Dave Grohl went out for a walk). Again outside of the Born In The USA album and a few songs, I’m not too knowledgeable about his actual songs but there are so many singers who have come after him who try to mimic or embody his spirit – the voice, the style, the workmanship, and the message.

22. U2

Chris Martin in the article, opening his mouth and embarrassing himself as always, says some of the most stupid things. I get he’s trying to compliment the band, but when he says U2 is the only band whose entire back catalogue he knows by heart, what I take from that is that Chris Martin is not a music fan and should be kept far away from any recording studio. God, he then goes on to say ‘they may be the only good anthemic rock band ever’. Why is Chris Martin a thing? Can anyone explain it? Does he realise by simply existing in the same time and space as U2, he’s making them look worse? He then closes his love-fest with a sermon, of course, where he unironically states (when mentioning musician’s abilities to discuss a wider political or cultural issue) ‘every time I try, I feel like an idiot’ Yeah, mate, that’s because you are. I like U2 – some of their songs. I’m not some superfan. Bono’s a bit of a twat and they stopped making decent music about fifty years ago, but for a while they were good. Coldplay though – I liked that ‘beautiful world’ song, for five minutes before self-exorcising.

21. Otis Redding

Another great story with a tragic ending. Redding had his hits and his fame and likely would have had more. It wasn’t to be, yet most of his stuff feels as good today as I imagine it did in the 60s.

Next time, we complete our rundown with the Top 20! Let us know in the comments how you feel about any of the artists above and their position within the list!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Journal For Plague Lovers

Journal For Plague Lovers

Maybe it was the simple act of using Richey’s lyrics again, but the music of Journal For Plague Lovers is fucking glorious. It isn’t simply a matter of the fury, the feeling, and the riffs returning but something about embracing those past ghosts and genius entirely revitalized every aspect of their outlook and output. The result is one of their best albums, and arguably the best album of 2009. If I have any real criticism, it’s that too many of the songs end in an abrupt way – a sudden or stilted stop instead of a more thought out conclusion. That’s just me though. More than any of their albums, almost every track is on an even level so my ranking is more pointless than usual. Here it is:

  1. Virginia State Epileptic Colony
  2. Peeled Apples
  3. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
  4. All Is Vanity
  5. Me And Stephen Hawking
  6. Doors Closing Slowly
  7. This Joke Sport Severed
  8. Facing Page: Top Left
  9. She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach
  10. Marlon JD
  11. Bag Lady
  12. Pretension Repulsion
  13. William’s Last Words

No bad songs here at all, and Number 13 could just as easily be in the top five. No ideal version here – most of the bonus tracks released around this time are instrumental or not exciting – no singles were released for the album so there isn’t the usual collection of B-Sides to rip through. Let us know your ranking in the comments!

TTT – Top Ten Walter Hill Movies!


2016 Toronto Film Festival - Portraits
Walter Hill of ‘(Re)Assignment’ poses for a portrait at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival Getty Images Portrait Studio at the Intercontinental Hotel on September 13, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Greetings, Glancers! This one was suggested a long time ago by fellow movie blogger and connoisseur John over at Cinematic Coffee. Check out his site for detailed reviews, discussions, and myriad director lists. John is a Walter Hill fan, as we all should be given his output and influence, and he wanted to hear my favourite Hill films.

Starting out as a writer, Hill’s early directorial voice is clear from the films he scripted or helped on – gritty, masculine, hard-hitting, and one of the fore-running of the buddy-cop/mismatched partnership/clashing of backgrounds which would come to define his best work. The Getaway, The Drowning Pool and others would set him on the path to becoming a director, though he would consistently remain a creative writing and producing force through his career. In 1975, he opened his Director’s Chair account and since then he has directed twenty six movies and TV Shows.

For me, Hill’s best work was from the tail end of the 1970s to the late 80s, a period when he enjoyed commercial and critical success. Since then, both have largely avoided him but his impact on both action and thriller genres should not be underestimated and his films are always challenging on multiples levels and a great tool for upcoming creators to learn from.

10. Trespass

It was either going to be this or Streets Of Fire. While I like Streets Of Fire for its ambition, it doesn’t always work and to me comes off as just another curio of 80s macho action. Curio is a good word to describe much of Hill’s work – he never exactly goes against the grain but takes what is popular at the time and adds a unique, left wing twist on things. Trespass is a post Reservoir Dogs, pre Pulp Fiction crime movie with a script from over a decade earlier but which feels like it was released two years too early. Bill Paxton and William Sadler play firemen who meet an unusual old man moments before he dies who leads them on a quest for stolen riches. They end up becoming embroiled in a gang war involving Ice Cube AND Ice T and a fight over the gold. It’s basically a Pirate movie set in modern day Illinois. It’s a film of its time but one which deserves to find an audience now – it was released around the time of the LA riots and due to some of the subject matter the studios didn’t give it the attention it warranted

9. The Long Riders

A Western which meets the curio quota – first, not many Westerns were being made in the 80s, and second it makes great use of Hollywood’s history of nepotism by casting some of the most famous Hollywood families as its stars. We have three Carradines, two Keaches, two Quaids, and two Guests – it’s a cool idea and not one many directors have tried over the years. The film takes its inspiration from the antics of Jessie James and the groups he ran with and against, and the men tasked with bringing them down. It’s more violent than many of the Westerns which came in the middle of the 70s and doesn’t paint the favourite American heroes in a heroic light. Like Hill’s best work though, it shows ‘hard times’ with a deft hand and engaging photography.

8. Extreme Prejudice

After some interludes into musicals and comedies, Hill returned to what he did best – tough guys dealing with no-win situations. The great cast includes Hill favourites Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe, along with Michael Ironside, Rip Torn, Clancy Brown, and Maria Conchita Alonso. Nolte is a stoic border town Sheriff going up against his ex best friend Boothe who turned to the dark side and became a drug runner. There’s this personal war between two old pals who took opposing paths despite coming from the same place, and there’s the B plot which eventually merges with the main story about a covert group of soldiers – cold and ruthless killers who are sent in to do the dirty jobs no-one else is capable of. With a story from John Milius you can expect more violence, great one-liners, and as the title suggests, politics and viewpoints and resolutions from the more extreme right of centre.

7. Southern Comfort

Scaling down some of the larger ideas and set pieces of his previous work, Southern Comfort is nevertheless an ambitious and deep project. Again dealing with opposing forces of men, opposing individuals, and people from different backgrounds forced into working together to defeat a common foe, it draws inevitable comparisons with Deliverance thanks to its setting and survivalist tone. It follows a group of Natural Guard guys out on some routine training in Louisiana. The group is a mixture of yahoos, yokels, and incompetent wannabee soldiers. Powers Boothe stars as the newbie to the group, transferred in from Texas and pissed off by how uncivilized and unskilled the group is. Carradine is the easy-going Private who tries to defend his group as men just having a good time. Inevitably getting lost, they encounter a group of Cajun locals deep in the bayou and one of the group stupidly begins firing at them with his blank rounds. Naturally the locals fight back – except they are trained and skilled hunters and fighters with deep knowledge of the terrain. It’s like Rambo in reverse. It’s a film I loved more in my youth because I remembered it having more action than it actually has. Now seen through older eyes, it feels more like a film about a bunch of idiots encroaching on territory which doens’t belong to them, and having to face the consequences. It’s well acted by the main players but not enough of the surrounding cast have long enough to have their characters fleshed out – a smaller group with more time dedicated to their flaws would have resulted in a more devastating film, but it’s still one which grips and entertains.

6. Geronimo

Like any number of Walter Hill movies, Geronimo never received the audience or credit it deserves. Hill gets to make the full blown Western he always wanted to and with a superb lead performance from Wes Studi it’s another Hill film which should be revisited. American audiences aren’t known for watching films where the lead is not a white guy they can relate to, yet the story of Geronimo is both fascinating and prescient. It follows the real life story of the Apache Indian forced to live on a US Reservation and deal with the associated humiliation. Refusing to cope with his forefather’s land being stolen and living according to the whim of the white man, Geronimo leads a splinter group who start to cause trouble for the Government and the military. Enter Jason Patrick who is tasked with capturing Geronimo and bringing his revolt to an end. Over the course of the film the two men are shown to be fighting for their beliefs and coming to respect each other. Still, as it’s Hill there’s a fair amount of action and violence in there. Aside from the main two performers, Gene Hackman, Matt Damon, and Robert Duvall all show up. It’s a film which always seemed to be on during my Summer Holidays at the Caravan/Camping park we went to every year, meaning that the next day me and my mates would be charging about the beaches and forests pretending to scalp people. PRETENDING.

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5. Another 48 Hours

An unfortunate side effect of always making whatever you want to or hitting those curios or niche markets is that you rarely have a hit. A sequel to one of his biggest hits seemed like a sure-fire win for Hill, and bringing together Nolte and Murphy once more basically guaranteed the film would print money. The buddy formula was reaching its end but the chemistry between the two leads and Hill’s comfort dealing with the action and humour meant that the film is more of the same – it’s not as good as the first one but it will still make you laugh and it has plenty of bullet holes as Reggie and Jack reluctantly team up once again.

4. Brewster’s Millions

The story had already been filmed numerous times before Hill decided to do his version, and what better backdrop to make the film than in the bloodthirsty, Republican led, every man for himself era of 1980s New York? I don’t know what it is about Richard Pryor’s 80s movies, but to me they’re all hilarious – just watered down enough to be palatable to families, but just madcap enough that we got to see what a true talent he was. If you’re not familiar with the story, it concerns an everyday Joe being informed that an old relative has died leaving him $300 million, as long as he can complete several tasks. First, he must decide to either walk away with $3 million – no questions asked, or if he can spend $30 million in 30 days he will get the full $300 million. Of course he goes for the second option, and of course there are caveats which the comedy spins off from – he can’t simply give it all to charity, he cannot tell anyone what he’s doing etc. Pryor is the ideal person to play Brewster – those expressive eyes conveying desperation, exasperation, and hilarity better than anyone. Add in John Candy as his best mate and a bunch of hangers on, money man, and legal types, and we have a fast moving, family comedy the likes of which you rarely see anymore. It’s a very unusual film for Hill to helm, but he handles it perfectly.

3. The Warriors

My top three picks are mostly interchangeable. The Warriors is one of those movies that everybody seems to love, but nobody seems to talk about outside of cult movie circles. I don’t think I’ve ever shown it to anyone who didn’t love it. I love the premise of trying to get across a city while besieged by all sides, and I love that it uses gang warfare rather than say zombies or some other supernatural event. A student of Ancient Greek and Roman literature and mythology, I also love that it’s loosely based around Anabasis – which tells of an army’s voyage home through enemy territory. At a push, it goes back to The Odyssey as a voyage home, my favourite of any sub-sub-genre. The film follows the titular Warriors – one of nine gangs in NYC who have come together to agree upon a truce which would allow the gangs to essentially rule the city. The dude with the plan is murdered, the blame is placed upon The Warriors, and a hit is put on their heads meaning every gang in the city is after them.

It’s a simple idea but Hill is in total command of the material – stylish, violent, and with a potent and convincing cast it paints NYC as a cold and unforgiving arena where territorial skirmishes are an hourly occurrence and you’re not safe unless you’re with your own kind on your own turf. Beck, Remar, and Kelly are each great and it’s maybe Hill’s most visually impressive film.

2. 48 Hours.

If there’s one thing these top three/four films have in common for me it’s that they are so rewatchable. They’re junk with substance – delicious yet rewarding. 48 Hours is probably the most universally rewatchable thanks to the smart and funny script led by Eddie Murphy at his best and Nick Nolte as the robust, perpetually pissed off foil. Barely a minute passes without something funny being said or seen, and if all else fails there’s plenty of violent 80s action to fall back on. For my money it’s the best buddy cop movie ever made, and it rarely puts a foot wrong.

  1. The Driver.

For the longest time I would rave to anyone and everyone about how good The Driver was. Then that movie with Ryan Gosling came about, and then Baby Driver, and a few more people suddenly claimed they loved this one too. The Driver contains some of the best car chases you’ll ever see and a bare bones hard boiled plot which exists just to remind us how cool Ryan O’Neal could be and how Bruce Dern could go full Nicholson before Nicholson ever did. The film was ripped to shreds upon release, but I loved it the first time I saw it. The main characters are unnamed, a deliberate choice and throwback to noir ideals, and the story is lean, leaving only sporadic dialogue, threats, and chases. For any fans of Drive and Baby Driver, or car-centric action movies in general, go back to the source – this is the source.

Let us know in the comments what you think of my picks and share your favourite Walter Hill Movies!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Send Away The Tigers

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After the mainly piano-based and electronic antics of Lifeblood, the band headed once more back to their guitar roots with the straightforward angular rock of Send Away The Tigers. Generally well received at the time, it’s an album which is mostly forgotten now beyond its major single. The band itself has once again been critical of certain songs but also credited it as getting them back on track and helping them to fall in love with making music again. Here’s my ranking of the ten tracks and the one hidden song:

  1. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  2. Autumn Song
  3. Send Away The Tigers
  4. Winterlovers
  5. Imperial Bodybags
  6. Underdogs
  7. Rendition
  8. I’m Just A Patsy
  9. Indian Summer
  10. The Second Great Depression
  11. Working Class Hero

Essentially everything above is a few steps below Your Love Alone Is Not Enough in terms of quality, with at least 7 of the lower ranked songs being interchangeable for me. No bad songs at all, just high average or thereabouts. It’s a short album but still garnered four singles, so that means we have plenty of B-Sides and alternatives to add in for my ideal version of the album:

  1. Send Away The Tigers
  2. Underdogs
  3. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  4. Anorexic Rodin
  5. Fearless Punk Ballad
  6. Rendition
  7. Morning Comrades
  8. Autumn Song
  9. Leviathan
  10. Boxes And Lists
  11. Imperial Bodybags
  12. Little Girl Lost
  13. Winterlovers
  14. Umbrella
  15. Ghosts Of Christmas

Both of those last two would be hidden tracks, naturally. That’s actually a pretty great album right there. I’m sure the order could be switched around to flow better. Let us know your ranking and picks in the comments!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Lifeblood

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Perhaps more than any other album the band recorded, Lifeblood has been unfairly criticized. It seemed like critics and fans both agreed that it was a little bland, lacking both the political conviction, the rage, the creativity, and the tunes of anything else they’d done before. I’d argue each of those points, though I’d agree that the rage has been muted or transformed and concede that while the lyrical creativity was decreased, the musical inspiration was high. It’s an album I like a lot, though the funny thing is that most of the tracks which the detractors agree upon liking, are the ones I’d cut. Here’s my ranking:

  1. Glasnost
  2. Cardiff Afterlife
  3. To Repel Ghosts
  4. I Live To Fall Asleep
  5. Emily
  6. A Song For Departure
  7. Empty Souls
  8. Solitude Sometimes Is
  9. The Love Of Richard Nixon
  10. 1985
  11. Fragments
  12. Always/Never

Luckily, the band had been going through a particularly productive period of novelty releases – Greatest Hits, B-Sides, EPs etc, so there are plenty of songs from this time which I would much rather have on the album instead. The good thing is, most of them fit the tone and musical landscape of the album. Like these:

  1. Happy Ending
  2. A Song For Departure
  3. I Live To Fall Asleep
  4. There By The Grace Of God
  5. Automatik Teknicolour
  6. To Repel Ghosts
  7. Everything Will Be
  8. No Jubilees
  9. Emily
  10. Door To The River
  11. 4 Ever Delayed
  12. Everything Will Be
  13. Glasnost
  14. All Alone Here
  15. Cardiff Afterlife

Fifteen songs is likely still too many – I could cut it down to 12, say drop All Alone Here, Automatik, and one of your choice and we would have a damn near perfect album. Let us know your picks in the comments!

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists (in music) Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! 100 -71

Greetings, Glancers! In my quest for always looking to post at least one listicle every couple of weeks, I’m having to take the coward’s way out and look at what other more reputable publications are posting. Now this one is a pretty obvious idea so I wouldn’t class it as stealing – everyone has their own list of favourite artists and opinions on these things. Still, it’s a regressive, lazy, click-bait type of post so you’ll have to bear with me until I can come up with something better.

There are a lot of these lists out there – every music rag and site will have their own take on it and I’m still toying with the idea of reacting to a few of them. However, I imagine most of them will be very similar and have a large crossover of artists. I went for Rolling Stone because they at least have a certain calibre of Writer, a certain respectability, and a level of talent and history which many more recent publications lack. The magazine has been going since the 60s and at least cares about music and talent rather than image and sales. Here is the link to their original article if you want to absorb it yourself and form your own opinion. What I have done is simply read the article and give some brief thoughts on each artist. I’m not going to get too hung up on placement.

Rather than let their Journalists give their thoughts on the best artists – likely factoring in influence, sales, quality, personal opinion, talent, originality, writing, technical proficiency etc, their list was based off actual industry insiders – the artists themselves, producers, writers, singers, musicians from a wide array of genres and eras. Without looking at the list then, I imagine there will be a few surprises and acts I’m not familiar with. Due to that fact alone, I’ll probably look at one more list, by a different site, for another post for comparison’s sake and because I want a more traditional list too. Also, this list apparently focuses on ‘The Rock Era’ so I don’t know if that means artists before a certain date wont be used or if certain genres are out of bounds. I’m more interested in a list which covers any genre and era, so that I can rant more.

Remember, the below selections are not mine, but I am going to give my thoughts on each. Here we go.

100: Talking Heads

I’m not going to doubt their influence, I’d have some doubts concerning their musical talent, I’m not going to question their lyrical prowess or ability to write songs which people seem to enjoy. I don’t like them – from what I’ve heard, which isn’t much – and I don’t like David Byrne’s vocals. Personal opinion, they’re not for me.

99. Carl Perkins

I only know the songs which other artists have recorded that he wrote – Elvis and The Beatles most notably. I’ve probably heard his original versions of those songs but I can’t say much more than that. Seems like an influential guy.

98. Curtis Mayfield

Much of what I referenced regarding Perkins could be said here too, although I know Mayfield through his famous work on Superfly. Remember when African American artists used to write and play with soul, and were some of the best musicians around? The white guys took all of that over in the late 50s – it’s time to share it around again I think.

97. REM

I’m surprised they’re so far down on the list, given the usual adoration and ball-fondling they receive. Maybe people are finally forgetting about them and realizing that the majority of their stuff doesn’t have staying power. Outside of Automatic For The People, there are very few REM songs I personally enjoy, mostly down to how I feel about Michael Stipe’s voice. That and the fact that I’m fairly certain a light breeze could strip them to their bones and shatter their skeletons. Still, they do have a number of pretty good songs which I can’t argue against, and every so often they’ll concoct an interesting lyric.

96. Diana Ross And The Supremes

I’m glad this is a single entry – Ross has the odd solo song which I don’t mind, but with The Supremes they were unbeatable. Classy and with the right group of writers backing them, they had hit after hit and I’m sure they broke down some racial barriers which is always good. Lets keep it focused on the music though – they have a strong of nothing less than masterpiece pop hits. Ross has some good vocals, but it’s the song selection and the quality of melody and harmony which keeps them so revered today, as well as some top session musicians backing them up. I wouldn’t call them influential any longer, because today’s female pop groups and artists seem to have forgotten that melody matters.

95. Lynyrd Skynyrd

That band that you have to keep spell-checking to make sure the Ys are in the ryte places. I don’t know much about them – I’m not big on the Southern US rock scene. Still, there’s no denying the skill on display and staying power of Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird. I’m sure they have other songs too.

94. Nine Inch Nails

No doubt influential in the metal and rock arena, Nine Inch Nails, or more acurately Trent Reznor, is generally held up as one of the genre’s best lyricists. Cutting and introspective and dark, the industrial experimental sound fits the words like a worm in your soul. I think he’s a better writer than a vocalist, though he certainly has a way with creating atmosphere. I always feel like I never give NIN a chance and I always mean to, but then I remember the  songs I don’t like – most of the obvious songs like Closer and Hurt are ones I don’t enjoy – then I abandon the idea.

93. Booker T And The MGs

Yeah, no doubting their influence or songwriting or playing. Just not a group I pay much attention to.

92. Guns N Roses

Now we’re talking. Hair metal was an extension of the more glamourous, self confident rock which came out of the 70s, but had too much focus on ego and image and sales and all too quickly allowed itself to transform from something about technical proficiency into something mass marketed and pussified. G’n’R was the antithesis of hair metal, the up-turning of that umbrella. They took the skill and swagger of what the genre should have been and added a raw 70s punk edge and effortless cool – these guys looked and performed like Hell’s demons were on their heels while the other hair metal bands suddenly looked like Belinda Carlisle. The band looked and felt like a gang, like a family, and their playing wasn’t overblown (at least in the beginning) yet remained vicious, rebellious, fast, and sexy – they played how animal fucking sounds and feels. Axl is an underrated songwriter, and Duff and Izzy don’t get the credit Slash gets.

91. Tom Petty

Another artist I don’t know much about – I know more about him than his music would be more accurate. What I’ve heard… I’m not a fan of the drawling vocals or Southern Sound, but I’ve heard single figure % of his work so I’m not the best example of someone accurately commenting.

90. Carlos Santana

I always found Santana suddenly finding widespread fame (again) in the 2000s quite bizarre. Here was a guy renowned in the 60s as a hippy free spirit and for playing loose, jazz infused Latino experimental rock. It was a commercial stroke of genius to link him up with some of the pop darlings of the day, and Supernatural remains a fantastic album. But you have to go back to his earlier days to find some of his truly killer playing. Carlos is a beast on the guitar with a style and tone you know is instantly his – for people who don’t really know much about guitar playing or guitarists, he is one of a very small handful of guitarists that the uninformed hear and recognise. From lightening fast breaks to soulful slow-dances, his music is perfect for a Summer afternoon beerathon, for howling at the moon afterwards, and for the come-down the next day, plus he’s a genuine, cool guy.

89. The Yardbirds

I always say that The Yardbirds existed so that later, better bands could. That’s a little unfair even if it is true, but in their short existence they set up the new rules for those later bands to follow – what can you do when you truly master an instrument? What sounds and songs will follow from feeling, what can you achieve when you don’t focus on writing a hit or looking a certain way or sounding like anyone else?

88. Jay-Z

Sorry, kids, but I’m going to go on record and admit that I can’t name a single Jay-Z song. I’m sure I’ve heard plenty, but I don’t know them. I’m going to assume that of all the rap and R’n’B to come out of the late 90s he’s among the most respectable – I have friends who know their stuff and whose musical opinions often fall in line with mine who love him – that’s usually good enough for me to give someone a chance. I haven’t yet, and probably won’t. There’s just too much stuff ahead of him on the list.

87. Gram Parsons

I don’t like Country. You know this by now. Parsons at least fused Country with other stuff – but then it was the 60s and everyone was fusing everything with everything else while at the same time being out of their fucking minds on whatever mind-altering goodness they could get their hands on. Was it the music that was good, or the drugs? In any case, I mostly know him from a few songs by The Byrds. I’m sure he could have achieved more if he’s lived longer.

86. Tupac

Similar to Jay-Z, except that I actually know some Tupac stuff. What I know I generally like but again I probably know more about the man and the myth than what he actually created and left behind. It seems like a lot of people on this list influence others, but the influence becomes reductive. Usually an artist is supposed to inspire others to be and do better, but in this case those were born out of Tupac’s success and skill have turned into everything which is shitty about music today – pre-packaged, mass produced, safe, repetitive garbage with no great message or meaning. Tupac is rolling in his grave over what you have become.

85. Black Sabbath

They essentially created metal. There were bands before and around the same time, but Sabbath brought all the vital ingredients together first. How you feel about metal will determine how you feel about Sabbath – do you like loud, heavy music? Do you enjoy frenetic rhythm sections, wailing vocals, solos like a volcano erupting and riffs like a shotgun cocking and firing? If not, you probably won’t like Sabbath – that’s fine, go listen to George Michael – but if you do, then you’ll love Sabbath. I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of a Sabbath individual songs listener, but they have enough individual songs regardless of their influence to make them a great band.

84. James Taylor

Fantastic voice and some gorgeous melodies. A nifty guitarist too. I think most metal fans have some sort of affinity with folk music, or at least the more introspective side of folk. Maybe it’s that both genres place so much value on emotion and musical ability. Taylor was at the forefront of folk, but he’s still someone whose music I haven’t heard very much of considering how prolific he has been.

83. Eminem

It seems more and more likely that Eminem is the musical genius of my generation. How many other artists have been as prolific and as critically and commercially successful as he has within the time when he started to today? The guy’s lyrics are flawless – insightful and brutal with the same couplet, hilarious the next. No-one is safe from his tongue or his pen, not least himself, and there may not be a finer lyricist on the planet. His knowledge and understanding of music doesn’t get enough credit and unlike so many of his peers – no matter the genre – he’s never content in being one thing; he wants to get better, he only wants to prove to himself that he’s still got it.

82. CCR

Yea yeah, I get it, I have to listen to them. Again, the few songs I’ve heard I like – don’t love, and they’re deep within that Souther US rock style I’m not a huge fan of.

81. The Drifters

I’m not sure how The Drifters ever qualified as a single group, given how many line-up changes they had ((like the article references). What remains consistent is that the voices are always strong, no matter who was in the group they all knew how to harmonise and perform together, and the melodies were smooth and timeless.

80. Elvis Costello

He’s been going for a hell of a long time, I’ll give him that Another case of knowing the artist more than the music, though what I’ve heard I never gave a second glance.

79. The Four Tops

Like The Drifters, these guys knew how to sing together; Once they had the right writing team behind them it was a money making machine. More importantly, the music was great.

78: The Stooges

Even though it always seemed like there was a lack of focus in that they apparently hated everyone and took the piss out of everyone meaning you couldn’t take anything they said seriously, they still had raw power and energy (pun intended). It was punk which was more intellectual than most and wasn’t afraid to be sexy as well as dirty and angry. I’m not overly well-versed in their stuff but much of it you can’t help but like thanks to the urgency with which they play.

77. The Beastie Boys

One of the most notable instances of rock and rap working together, The Beastie Boys have an array of hits to their name but if you look at what mostly came out of their ideas – groups like Limp Bizkit and shite of that ilk – you have to wonder was it worth the effort? Still, the band’s early stuff sounds more fresh and vital than any nu-metal or rap inspired rock band now, and the less said about current rap artists attempts to merge with rock, the better.

76. The Shirelles

Arguably the greatest girl band of all time (obviously I still hold The Bangles in the top spot), The Shirelles may not have played their own instruments or wrote many of their own songs, it was the girl next door appeal of their vocals and performance which made them stand out. They were sexy without flaunting it, honest, open, and the vocals weren’t trying to blow out the speakers. One of the few bands to truly influence The Beatles in the early days, once they had a writing team behind them they dropped a number of hits which remain unbeaten today in terms of quality.

75. The Eagles

Like a few of the other mainly US oriented bands above, I only know a handful of their songs. Maybe it’s the Country music relationship that put me off. I’ll get to them in one of my other series.

74. Hank Williams

It’s Country, so I already have a low tolerance. It’s not whiny old crap Country though.

73. Radiohead

You already know they’re one of my favourite bands. Even if they have been the Thom Yorke And Friends band now for longer than they’ve been Radiohead. When they’re good, nobody comes close to touching them, and when they’re not good they’re still more adventurous and interesting than almost any other act. I just wish they were good again. Still, when they’re live even the songs I don’t like become something special.

72. AC/DC

They’re an average rock band who has managed to crank out more hits than most. It’s pretty much mindless music with a good beat and brain-shredding vocals. I can’t take them seriously at all, even if I do agree many of their songs are catchy.

71. Frank Zappa

An incredibly influential artist, Zappa is and was like nobody else. He was a great guitarist and writer, but it just so happened that most of his music and ideas didn’t really translate into good songs.

Join me next time for another batch and let us know your thoughts on the artists above!

 

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part Three!

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

26. Strawberry Fields Forever 

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

25. Penny Lane

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

24. Every Little Thing

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

23. Hey Jude

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

22. Eleanor Rigby

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

21. I’m A Loser

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

20. Paperback Writer

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

19. Real Love

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

18. In My Life

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

17. Mr Moonlight 

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

16. And Your Bird Can Sing

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

15. A Day In The Life

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

14. No Reply

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

13. A Hard Day’s Night

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

12. Ticket To Ride

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

11. Please Please Me

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

10. We Can Work It Out

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

9. She Loves You

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

8. I Want To Hold Your Hand

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

7. From Me To You

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

6. I’ve Just Seen A Face

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

5. The Long And Winding Road

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

4. Here Comes The Sun

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

3. Can’t Buy Me Love

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

2. Across The Universe

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

  1. Help

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

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