Monday, 31 May 2010

Quick new timeline

A quick update on some of the long-term plans for Audenshaw Reviews in the next twelve months.

The closest big event is my review of Alton Towers in July. There I'll be reviewing the changes since my last visit, the gardens, and overall park hospitality. Expect some swearing.

In the first two weeks of summer I won't have internet access, but I'll still be writing reviews of attractions in North Devon, which will then be published when I get back. Don't expect as much swearing.

Then I get back to school and I start rehearsals for Oliver - see how I do, and each week of rehearsals, I'll write a piece on it. Expect an Oliver Review either way.

Then, some time before or after Christmas, expect another Hallé for Youth review.

Next week I'm planning to review The Script and A Series of Unfortunate Events, in four-book groups.

Thanks. 

Review: Gary Go

Gary Go - Gary Go (2009)

Another unimaginatively named debut album, Gary Go and his eponymous collection present some sleeping tigers. The feel of the entire album is somewhat subdued; but yet strangely triumphant. It combines emotional development with rationality; cut-throat honesty with soppy encouragement.

Gary Baker has an interesting voice that he masters to an excellent degree. His lyrics are often comparable to other strange British artists; unconventionally commn or uncommon words that don't distract from the message of the song but instead enhance it.

This is one of the reasons that a lot of my preferred bands/singers are British; American just don't get the subtlties that come with wit and charm. And this album certainly has those qualities. His skill with the English language certainly enhances the album, with entire songs being metaphors for engines and the workings of a car, while still containing enough emotional sustainance to be capitvating.

If you're looking for interesting, intellectual listening, then Gary Go fills that hole perfectly. I don't love the album, but I certainly enjoy it.

Thanks.

Review: Harry Potter (2/7): The Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, By J.K.Rowling (1998)

The first book I read without pictures; a story that delves further into the mythology of the series without coming over any darker than previous. It's as if the series is still keeping its cards close to its chest, slowly placing low cards that will add to more later.

I won't go into any more detail about Rowling's brilliantly immersive style; other than that there is as before a marked increase in maturity in the characters as the story progresses. She also trickles through small elements of story that seem only useful for diversity here but will play deep parts in further stories, like racial purity and other little ideas.

Of course, this marks the first time we see a form of Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard that killed Harry's parents (Well, he was a face on the back of a proffessor's head in the last book), in the form of his teenage self. We learn that for some reason Harry has taken on some of Voldy's powers, which seems interesting but not yet important to the plot.

Overall, this book is a necessary step between the introductory first book and the more serious third. It introduces some important mythology and most of all it gives neccessary advancement in the maturity of the characters.

Thanks.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Review: Harry Potter (1/7): The Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K.Rowling (1997)

If you don't know the basic story of Harry Potter, you've obviously been banged up in some Cuban jail somewhere, or had your head encased in concrete, or most likely both. But for those few who have suffered this unfortunate treatment, the basic idea is that the orphaned Harry Potter discovers on his eleventh birthday that his parents were in fact wizards, and tht he is famous for being the Chosen One who survived being almost-killed by a big evil wizarding type.

It reeks of familiarity and cliche, but for some reason it's strangely endearing. Maybe it's the realism and detail in which Harry's thoughts are covered; maybe it's the child audience. Whatever it is, it means that when one first encounters the series, one is hooked. I'm not just talking about some small compulsion, I'm talking about this book's brilliant ability to immerse the reader in it's world of magic and wonder.

Harry's early innocence is a good place to start the tale; naivity and youth work well together, and in the following books we watch as Harry's detailed personality matures and wrinkles. The fluency and detail of this book and of the whole series are perhaps I think what makes it so damn readable, and the immersive qualities of those traits make a good book.

While still being a good book, it seamlessly introduces a wildly varied backstory and a set of consistent rules that this magical world follows. It has identifiable drama, moments that will make you laugh and despair, moments that, due to their sheer beautiful simplicity, will have a smile erupting onto your face.

The atmosphere of the book is an interesting parallel to Harry's maturity, as it's light and idealistic nature dilutes as the book and the series goes on. You can physically feel that the book's style is different at the end than it was at the beginning, reflecting the change in the protagonist.

A book that should be read by all children who aspire to read properly, write fluently and expand their imaginations beyond the material world. Simply brilliant.

Thanks.

Timetable 30/5/10 - 5/6/10

It's Harry Potter Week, as well as five music reviews including Two Double Bills.

Sunday 30/5/10 - ...And the Philosopher's Stone

Monday 31/5/10 - ...And the Chamber of Secrets and Gary Go

Tuesday 1/6/10 - ...And the Prisoner of Azkaban and Back to Bedlam

Wednesday 2/6/10 - ...And the Goblet of Fire and All the Lost Souls

Thursday 3/6/20 - ...And the Order of the Phoenix and These Streets

Friday 4/6/10 - ...And the Half-Blood Prince and Sunny Side Up

Saturday 5/6/10 - ...And the Deathly Hallows and Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor

Review: Doctor Who: Cold Blood

That was certainly an improvement. Chris Chibnall spends less time faffing about here, and what results is a tightly packed if albeit a bit rushed story. The first half of the episode is Doctor Who gold, balancing all the elements perfectly, with technobabble, drama and a deep anti-violence message. The second half felt a bit rushed and borrowed a lot of Moffat principles for the sake of argument...

So, some construction worker "Mo" and Amy are about to get dissected by some reptile guy but elsewhere in the city army reptiles find the Doctor and Nasreen, and so he is called away to examine the Doctor's alien nature. Amy swipes a remote device, allowing both to escape, and they wander around tunnels finding children and reptile warriors in cryosleep.

The Doctor discovers that this city of Silurians is being currently controlled by the army, who are the only ones awake. The other two burst in for an untimely rescue attempt and then all four are tied up and readied for excecution.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the alien hostage has poisoned the grandfather, who goes to ask her for the cure. Like the arrogant alien warrior stereotype she is, she refuses and says she prefers to be killed instead. Oh goody. Being a bit pissed at how she's treating her dad, Ambrose accidentally electrocutes the alien hostage, thus sparking the potential for a war.

Just before they're going to be excecuted, the Second Half kicks in and for some reason the Silurian President comes storming in (having provided voiceovers throughout the episode), saving all of their lives. Then follows some awkward negotiation with the surface where they ask to bring the hostage down, and some negotion scenes between the apparent representatives for humanity and the president.

And then the military lead a revolution and find out the hostage is dead, and so like another Matt Smith two-parter, the group become trapped in a control room. Here there's apparently some very simple solution involving everyone being told to sleep again, the drill being blown up and everyone escaping with their heads.

Then a crack appears and there's a Last Second Death by Rory who's then absorbed by the crack and erased from history. Good riddens. Dull idiot that while bringing some unique human drama had absolutely no chemistry with Gillian and got in the way quite a bit. Valuable to the overall plot, perhaps, but I would have preferred he stayed in his little village. His four episodes haven't really given him enough characterisation for me to care about his demise.

The prostethics are as good as ever, if a bit distracting, and the acting was top-notch if not Shakespeare. There are some brilliant one-liners, like "We're at the centre of the Earth, and there are lizard men." The episode sets up some future episode synopsise, with the Silurians destined to come to the surface in 3020, which I'm not particularly excited about, but there we go. It by far bettered the mess that was last week, because it took more than a paragraph to descirbe what acutally happened! It wasn't particularly meaningful, or at least not as meaningful as the 1970 story.

The erasure of Rory brings up some big questions. What appeared in place of the 2015 timeline in Amy's Choice? Who stood in as Amy's brother in Vampires in Venice? How can The Doctor have gone to Venice in the first place when Rory wasn't there to be going on a romantic trip with Amy? How can the crack exist if the wedding of Amy and Rory is the point at which time cracks? All questions that need to be answered, probably in the finale, but I do hope they are.

I found the entire story dissappointing; character development was few and far between, there were long periods where simply nothing was happening, the voice over was pretentious and stupid and it's clear that due to the rushed nature of his death/erasure he's likely to be resurrected later on. The synopsis had so much potential, but this fell down so dramatically that not even the wonderful prostetics and special effects stopped me from passing the occasional yawn.

Anyway. Next week we have a bad Van Gogh impression and a Gryffon-like monster. It's written by none other than Richard Curtis, writer of great comedies such as The Boat That Rocked, Love Actually, Notting Hill and Four Weddings. My hopes are up.

Thanks.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Review: The Resistance

The Resistance, Muse (2009)

My first reaction on listening to many of the songs on Muse's album was familiarity; despite never really having heard any of them before. It's fast-paced, emo rock; nothing I particularly object to. It was enjoyable to say the least; although for some reason there aren't words in my lexicon to describe it.

The reason for my familiarity was soon discovered; apart from the first and last three songs, they all sound quite familiar. Almost indistinguishable on light listening; the overarching voice of the lead singer ruling over everything else, and making the whole thing every samey.

They expose their classical influences with the last three songs, which together make up the "Exogenesis Symphony", a wonderful piece that highlights how new and old styles can codevelop. I particularly loved how the incorporated voice didn't spoil the feel of the piece.

It's very metal. It's simply brilliant, a mixture of light classical musings (the title explains it all! Hurrah!) and hard 70s rock. There's some Queen influences, some Bowie, and then this homegrown brilliance and meaning that floats through everything. I would reccomend this album. But one certainly has to concentrate, and then one can enjoy the music to its full potential.

Thanks.

Timeline Changes

I think I'd rather not go ahead with tonight's Eurovision Coverage. It seems to much of a workload for a Saturdy night, and so instead I'll post my Doctor Who:Cold Blood review and then Harry Potter Week starts on Sunday with ...And The Philosopher's Stone.

I'm also gonna be introducing a Poll at the side there, covering many different topics from my reivews to what I see on television.

Thanks

Friday, 28 May 2010

End Of Term Roundup

May has been revolutionary for Audenshaw Reviews. A review a day, at least, with opinion pieces now and then with weekly timetables. The Youtube campaign has hopefully worked, as I posted my last video on Tuesday.

Thinking ahead, there's the Eurovision Coverage (it's looking very good this year btw) which will be posted on Saturday night (hopefully) and then I might update with images and later opinions on Sunday. Also on Sunday will be my Doctor Who: Cold Blood review. After that, I've got a treat with Harry Potter Week, in which I review a book a day over the holidays.

I'm looking forward to it. See you there.

Thanks.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Review: Lily Allen (2/2) - It's Not Me, It's You

It's Not Me, It's You, Lily Allen(2009)

The unique nature of Allen's work and her very critical lifestyle meant that the second album was always going to be quite different from the original. Despite being a very loosely popular celebrity, Allen was a popular figure in the tabloid press for the duration of her three-year career, mostly for inconsiderate statements, drunken embarrassments and blatant law-breaking. The name of the album is perhaps consequential; a call out to the tabloids to get off her back. Anyway. Let's look at the contents.

Well... it's better in some areas and worse in others. The songs are generally palatable and less droll but the contoversial songs, albeit less in number, are quite vulgar. Maybe witty on an isolated listening, but if listened to recreationally they may seem highly inappropriate. For example, "Not Fair" deals with the topic of Premature Ejaculation. Perfect for all those little kiddies.

There does remain some politcal commentary, in the form of "The Fear," which deals with materialism in society. What I love is that while the previous album fell flat in terms of relationships, some of this album's strongest offerings cover that very subject, such as "22" and "I Could Say". It's a good sign that she knows how to improve based on past mistakes, and one of the things that I found endearing.

And then there're the terrible songs. "Fuck You," for example, is a return to the sheer silliness of Alright, Still's "Alfie," upbeat profanities with a pretense of having something to say about society, but are in fact rotten apples on an otherwise unspoilt tree. "Who'd Have Known" is taken directly from Take That's "Shine", literally, something that I would have thought Ms. Allen would have avoided with her unconventional approach.

In terms of style, this album has far more techno than previously, maybe as a sign of Ms. Allen moving more into mainstream material. It does improve the album, although "I Could Say," a typical ballad, is still moving without it.

It's a shame that Allen packed up her career, for typically greedy reasons (She aparrently couldn't see any way of making any more money from it.) She was improving, certainly, and she had a very unique outlook on the country and of modern britain, as well as having a lovely voice and a quirky fashion. I can only hope that if she does make a third album, she learns from her past results and makes something to be truely proud of.

Thanks.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Review: Lily Allen (1/2) - Alright, Still

Alright, Still, Lily Allen(2006)

She was a new girl on the scene; not so much a muscial master as someone trying to express their views through song. It's a sort of sideways pop; unconventional but mainstream in an oxymoronic way. Her songs try to reflect not only her personality but her views on modern Britain. She doesn't attend to musical structure, often including excerpts of normal voice.

My main issue with Ms. Allen is that the consistency of this first album is terrible, and that the unconventional/absurd nature of her songs means that they're hard to listen to recreationally. Either it's an unconventional pop ballad with valid things to say on the nature of modern society and of the idiosyncratic nature of the human race, or it's a meaningless ballad that falls down flat.

On a momentary analysis of Allen's songs, I can certainly appreciate the messages (albeit not very sublte), with her clear cut London accent and her preference of voice over her background, something other artists of the time were falling short of. There are songs that are very tightly crafted verse, like "Everything's Just Wonderful."

Despite all of the messages in her work, her main work surrounds relationships. This is unfortunately where I think she falls down, as in her songs she tends to treat relationships with a cold, calculating honesty that instead of pulling on the heart strings leaves me slightly awed if not bemused.

Allen released some more mainstream works later on, in 2009, which I shall review tommorrow. The reason why I am doing these two albums on consecutive days is that last year Ms. Allen said that she had abandoned music, which felt bittersweet for me because it was these two albums that were my first album buys.

Thanks.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Review: La Roux

La Roux - La Roux (2009)


The eponymous singer/manager duo La Roux  (Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid) seem to have undergone a reversal of Ashes to Ashes' synopsis; jumping into the Noughties with Eighties ideas and inspirations. It isn't as if our era hasn't seen synth before, but this is the first album that has captured the 80s' unshakeable spirit.

Ms. Jackson's voice is astounding in range and its uniqueness means that it is easily recognised. The songs capture the era perfectly, while also bringing flair to the modern era ("Early Nineties decor, nothing to stay for"). The songs are catchy, in a good way, and stick in the head not for some absurd hook but for their mix of intriguing and emotional lyricism and sound.

The firstsong on the album, "In for the kill" is a bit shrill on the first few listenings, but the rest of the album is consistently good. From "Tigerlily" onwards, one finds that that is the quality one should come to expect from the duo. Most if not all of the songs are about relationships, with all sorts of metaphorical euphoria and suffering that provide enough variation.

Technoballads like "Cover My Eyes" and "Fascination" are perhaps the most effective, the best use of the inter-twined nature of ballad and intense techno prowess.

Thanks.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Review: Hands


Hands, Little Boots (2009)

Hands is generic technoballad; a unique, typically Blackpudlian take on the genre that manages to effectively combine the two influences. Like Blackpool and it's loud and proud image, Ms. Victoria Hesketh fills her music with bombastic imagery. It's a mixture of 80s themes updated for a modern audience.

A lot of the album follows this description; Hesketh doesn't tick the "heartfelt" box but she gets an honourary scribble in the margins of ballad, and combined with her party upbringing she seems perfectly tuned for the majority of markets.

The final, hidden track on the album is pure ballad, and what results from the removal of techno is a brilliant piece that proves that behind the pazazz of her eighties influences, she has an excellent vocal range. With her stylish tones, vocal beauty and expertise of the markets, the result is an album that shines on the shelf and blasts thorugh the ear-phones.

Thanks.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Timetable 24/5/10 - 31/5/10

Monday 24/5/10 - Hands - Little Boots

Tuesday 25/5/10 - La Roux - La Roux

Wednesday 26/5/10 - Alright, Still - Lilly Allen

Thursday 27/5/10 - It's Not Me, It's You - Lilly Allen

Friday 28/5/10 - Opinion - Half-Term Roundup

Saturday 29/5/10 - Eurovision Live Coverage

Sunday 30/5/10 - Doctor Who: Cold Blood

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Review: Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth

Chris Chibnall is officially, in my eyes, a bad writer. Former writer of Life On Mars, Chibnall is a Sci-Fi geek, former representative of the Doctor Who Fanclub and scatters all of his work with delightful technobabble. It's just a shame that this comes at the expense of everything else.
      So unless you've managed to ignore all media surrounding Who, you'll know that the Silurians, monsters from Jon Pertwee's era in 1970, have been revamped. This media coverage destroys all tension in the episode, so that you know exactly what's coming.
      Here's the basic synopsis; an archealogical drilling operation (Although I don't know how that works) is working in a small welsh town, where people are dissappearing beneath the ground. The Doctor and Co show up; the drilling down meets some drilling up and the creatures make forcefields and the like to confuse the surface-dwellers. Amy is dragged beneath; The Doctor is angry, takes a creature hostage and then pops down in the TARDIS to take a look.
     There's a lot of dialogue that leans on Moffat principles ("It doesn't do wood!") but the story has all the hallmarks of Chibnall, with a large number of temporary characters hastily introduced and that we don't really care about being pushed aside by self-rightous protagonists who are always generally worried about something in particular. The Silurians have been simplified into lovey-dovey 2010 versions that instead of just being a bit miffed are instead angry bastards that intended on having a full scale massacre but never seemed to get round to it.
     The pacing is terrible; there's some faffing about, a sudden important plot change and then some slow lamentation. There was no sense of tension or purpose. Why? Because for some unfathomable reason, they included a future Amy and Rory waving from a far off cliff-face. Yes, you heard me. In one page of script, they have just destroyed all tension for the entirety of the companion's tenure.
     The episode has some great character moments and despite the simple cliffhanger (There are far many more Silurians than before, woo hoo we'd already guessed that) I have a genuine interest in seeing how this plays out and if in the second half Chibnall can regain some credibility in my eyes.

Thanks

Review: The Flight

The Flight, by Brian Malessa

My video on the subject was terrible; and so here I am, with a full written review.
     A chilling, moving book on a rarely touched-upon subject, The Flight is perhaps one of my favourite books. Malessa's debut is ambitious in principle; representing the plight of the population of East Prussia in the early 1940s as they were forced to evacuate, across Nazi Europe. It flips the tables; no longer are the Nazis the evil boogeymen of other fiction. But the true skill soon appears; it doesn't glorify the Nazis, or try to apologise for them. It exposes the humanity on both sides; the cold, steel-edged humanity that drives our protagonists forth.
     Ida is a mother living on the main peninsula in East Prussia. Her husband is a soldier in the German army; her oldest son is in the Hitler Youth. When Operation Barabarossa backfires, the Russian Armies take an early revenge on East Prussia, and Ida and her two other children are forced to flee across Germany.
     The last few chapters of the book deal with the circumstances post-war, with Ida and her husband being stuck on either side of the divide between the Soviet Germany and the Western Allies. The end of the book is truely heartbreaking, for reasons I won't go into, but I think serves to reflect the book's main themes.
     The passage of time is quite interesting. When the atmosphere is light and peaceful, as near the beginning, one can often find that several months go past per paragraph. When the stakes become higher, time seems to slow down and this really improves the effectiveness of the work.
     This book is a well-researched, well-written piece of historical fiction that does justice to the events it describes, and that is perhaps why it is my favourite.

Thanks.

Opinion: Ashes to Ashes Finale (Spoilers)

That was all a bit odd, wasn't it? So unlike the Mars' finale's proposition of a comatose reality, this is in fact a policeman's limbo, with Nelson's bar as Heaven and a deep administrative department as Hell.


Gene was, as many suspected, the scarred policeman that haunted Alex throughout this series. Killed in 1953 (a date Shaz mentioned last week), he's spent the last thirty years helping police in limbo either to escape or to get through into Nelson's Heaven. It is surprising then that DCI Jim Keats (Daniel Mays), who has been a major character only this series, is positioned as the Devil, tempting Ray, Chris, Chaz and Alex towards Hell.

I thought it was done as well if not as satisfactorally as the Mars finale. The coma theory was a lot easier to swallow in the long term, even if the limbo theory has been orchestrated to explain everything.  I for one would have loved to see at least one more series with the new policeman that has come in to replace Alex, complaining about his iPod and looking for his office.

Thanks.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Youtube!

Down there near the bottom of my sidebar is a Youtube video spot. I'll keep updating these from my channel, Harrypotterman290, and they'll usually be video reviews or opinions. I'm terrible on camera, so I hope you're ok with it. I will tend to follow up video reviews with written ones; I'm going to review "The Flight" tommorrow.

Thanks.

Opinion: Life on Mars / Ashes to Ashes

The end for Gene Hunt grows ever nearer. Ever since Phillip Glenister crashed onto our screens in 2006 with his rascist, chauvanistic attitudes and violent temperment, he's become the strong-willed idol of the people's right for justice, which just shows that the people of our great nation are incredibly strange.

We've had 39 hours of Hunt and his fight for justice, with his glorified protaganist sidekicks. The first two series were set in 1973, and Life On Mars (2006-7) was an overnight hit. The story of Sam Tyler (a brilliant John Simm), a modern DCI sent back in time (or, as later revealed, into a deep coma) where he was a downgraded DI in a confused, Bowie-era Britain. Both these series were brilliantly executed, with gripping storylines and a mystery that was not only rivetting but neatly summed up in a satisfying and moving conclusion back in 2007.

And then, after being told that Mars was no more, they decided to vomit on the memory of that finale and commission a three year plan for Ashes to Ashes (2008-10), an 80s romp with the wonderful Keeley Hawes (ex-Lara Croft and Spooks star) as DI Alex Drake. The three series have been exceedingly varied and in some places more shabby than Mars, and in reality the story of Hunt, Tyler and Drake should have ended at the end of 09's stronger series. But, alas, no. And so here we are, on the precipice of the last hour of Gene Hunt's television tenure.

The thing is, do we care? The formula hasn't changed over the past five years, and it's unsure if a mystery actually exists, seeing as it was essentially answered in th stunning Mars finale. We've had 39 hours and the characters along the sides (the ever-present DC/DS/DI Ray Carling and DC Chris Skelton, as well as DC Annie Cartwright in Mars and DC Shaz Granger in Ashes) are only loosely characterised. I for one hope that this Ashes finale manages to match or perhaps beat the Mars fianle, but I don't hold out much hope.

Thanks.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Review: Lungs


Lungs - Florence + the Machine (2009)
Ballad perfection. One couldn't want more; strong, empowering vocals, vocals that hold their passion and intent movingly. Florence Welche and her crew of backing artists give us this brilliantly mesmerising album that I loathe to find fault with.
The topics covered by Welche range from nights out to pure flights of fantasy; metaphorical observations of reality to human mutilation; bad relationships to pagan sacrifice. And yet each one seems eerily appropriate for its base, and for her style. She makes good use of harps, sometimes chirping cheerfully in the background and sometimes turning into heavy bass.

You may call me a biased reviewer, and I am, so well done. I cannot find flaws in this album, I cannot find anything to which I have a negative word. Maybe it's the floating, hypnotic verse, maybe it's the sheer level of musical talent on which we have here. For example; the album's namesake single, Between Two Lungs, was first formed when Florence, a pure singer, sat down to play the piano, an instrument she had never used before. What results is moving and powerful, while also strangely relaxing and wonderful.

I simply cannot say any more about how much I just love this album. It's creative, innovative and momentous, and I hope that Florence goes on to do more great things.

Thanks.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Review : The E.N.D


The Energy Never Dies (The E.N.D.) - Black Eyed Peas (2009)

Unlike Calvin Harris, it's clear the BEP are not only richer but treat their party rythems with a tad more effort. This is an album that I feel torn about, because it is so good in some areas but appalling in others.

The Black Eyed Peas move away from their alternative dance to move to some more mainstream techno. And rightfully so, in my opinion, as the results are mostly brilliant. While not particularly meaningful or well lyricised, they seem perfect for their intended audience; people in clubs and bars.

The Energy Never Dies starts awfully with a short voiceover in a deep and highly synthesised voice that warns the end is near, but not to panic because the Energy Never Dies. I want to listen to music, not to your self-absorbed attempts at meaning. The album seems terribly chatty and plot-like; while not having a consistent theme to each song, there are constant little normal voice excerpts that are clearly moulded into the verses. Unneeded, and unnerving. Profanity is of course scattered like punctuation, serving no other purpose than a rhyming aide.

There are some good songs on this album, perfect for purpose and at least somewhat contemplative while still holding the BEP's trademark urban wit and beat. In other places it's perhaps too crude for the purpose of the song, and that sole discrepancy in tone and subject ruins the entire song.

The songs don't seem to end. Listening to the album without looking at the list, one finds it hard to initially tell that one song has ended and another begun; perhaps indicative of the eternal nature of energy, but I'm not buying it.

It's such a shame to have to actually look into the album, as taken on face value it could be regarded as some of their best work. It's clear, despite their faux laid-back attitude in the album, that real work has been put into the album, and this provides even less of an excuse when you listen to the awful songs that seem to have been left behind.

Thanks.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

New Review Timeline!

I've found Music! HURRAH! That and it's nearing the beginning of the Summer Block, so I'll be reviewing some television as well. Here's a rough view of the reviews I'll be writing in the next few weeks:

Wednesday 19/5/10 - The E.N.D. - Black Eyed Peas, The Young Apprentice Overview

Thursday 20/5/10 - Lungs - Florence and the Machine

Friday 21/5/10 - Ashes to Ashes Overview

Sunday 23/5/10 - Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth

Monday 24/5/10 - Hands - Little Boots

Tuesday 25/5/10 - La Roux - La Roux

Saturday 29/5/10 - Eurovision Live Coverage

Sunday 30/5/10 - Doctor Who: Cold Blood

(?July) - Alton Towers Gardens

That should do. I will write opinion pieces now and then as well, and I hope you'll like them.

Thanks.

Review: Lights



Lights, Ellie Goulding (2010)

Brilliant. Just... brilliant. There was apprehension when Ms. Goulding won the BBC's new artist award at the end of 2009, but I am glad to say that this is misplaced. She quite adequately describes her genre as "Folktronica", a merging of two genres, and while one would expect this to be an eclectic mess, her skill shines through and it works perfectly.

In some places, it's vaguly reminiscent of the strong ballads of previous award winner, Florence and the Machine, and in others it matched the technoballad of La Roux. Goulding equals both of them, mixing the spicy techno with the savoury folk guitars which produces a rather lovely Goulding cupcake.

It certainly helps her cause that she has masterful control over the language. Her lyrics are meaningful and thoughtful, employing beautiful metaphors that leaves it standing on the boundary between pop music and spoken poetry. Her words are never laboured; they are allways perfectly delivered to suit the material.

To be honest I often find it easier to write about something I hate than something I love; Ms. Goulding falls firmly in that latter cateogry. I can see a good future for Ms. Goulding and her bretherin, and I hope that she releases some more material in the forseeable future.

Thanks.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Review: Ready For The Weekend

Ready For The Weekend, Calvin Harris (2009)

Calvin Harris' Ready For The Weekend is a stereotypically techno album. It can be described most basically as a collection of voice cuts, dots and beeps generally arranged to try and make something meaningful. In this respect, it fails dramatically.

The singles off the album are perhaps the only bearable ones on it; either dull repetition or some basic differentials are their cheif hallmarks, and when one considers this twelve single album has only five bearable singles by Calvin himself, then that doesn't really shine a light on his career.

The only thing in the album's favour is "I'm not Alone", a quite dark but quirky number that stands as the album's most popular Calvin-only track. That and the natural habit of the body to respond positively to a heavy beat. The rest simply fade into insignificance, their lyricisms and beats either too mundane or useless to be of any value.

To steal from Charlie Brooker, this is not music, it is "content". It's music deliberately made to fill a stereotypical niche, and whether it actually wants to be there is out of the question. This form of techno fills the "Repetitive Techno Ballad" niche, and while it fails to stir any emotion whatsoever it gets "repeptitive" and "techno" just right. Not that that's a good thing.

Take another artist of similar ability and genre; La Roux, for instance. Yes, she uses repetitive rythems. Yes she uses synthesisers and CG obsessively. But she makes it work. She manages to find just the right balance between the allure of CG and the emotion-stirring nature of the ballad. She's not only younger than Harris, but has had a lot less time to get her act together.

I give Ready For The Weekend a light 36% rating. Some of the tracks work. There are tracks I love. But on the whole, it's an empty callous of CG and misjointed intention.

Thanks.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Opinion: Every Lidl Helps

I had the unfortunate task of walking round Lidl, which because I'm a pretentious snob is an agonizing experience. I'm predisposed to look down on it like a small beggar boy scratching at my trouser leg for a spare coin, and as with such a beggar I'm inclined to simply kick the child in the face.

For those who have been blessed with overwhelming ignorance of small German supermarkets, Lidl is a small German supermarket, or a "kleinen deutschen Supermarkt." It shelves the concept of shelves and instead displays its produce wither in large piles or in aligned baskets. None of the brands are vaguely recognisable outside of Hamburg, and the prices are usually fairly cheap (warrenting the, "Hmmm" reaction) or extortionately expensive (warrenting the, "Hmph" reaction). Your perception of these prices not only depends on whether your first language was German, but also how much money you tend to have; obsessive toffs will view the shop as lined up piles of German excrement for all the common people to bathe in, while the deeply poor will claim it's prices are through the roof and moan about how they get better prices in Pound World.

My first encounter with Lidl was with its German equivalent in the Rhineland, "Pennymarkt", which always seemed a strange name to me, seeing as the Germans have never used pennies as currency in their 2000 year history, and so I and my momentary child aquaintance on this school trip decided to go in and use our meagre spends to buy three two-litre bottles of cheap cola which had been drunk by noon.

And so ends my rant on Lidl. Now for another two weeks of untold dredgery and then maybe I can get a week's peace, after which all my memories of this event will have blurred from my mind.

Thanks.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Opinion: Primark, Technology and the fall of PC gaming

Yesterday I went "to town" which for me is Manchester City Centre. The primary attraction for the female of the species within that area is, of course, the cheap clothes shop Primark.

Manchester's example is comparative to a heaving pair of lungs, each till being a worn alveoli with masses of near-identical particles zooming in and out relentlessly. Women suddenly became the utmost experts in fashion and polite cueing, while hetrosexual men became shy recluses blindly wandering around like talking coathangers. The walkways are, in the rush (which tends to last from opening to close), more cluttered than the M6 after an oil-truck fire. The general layout of the shop is as scattered and pointless as a woman in a burkha buying sunglasses, with no apprent logic behind any placement - as an example, one can find stilletto heels in the basement, slippers on the ground and sandals on the first.

Wandering around, I found that despite its apparent popularity, it had nothing I needed, and so I felt forced to enter nearby British Home Stores. What I found there was not only a much more claming and relaxing experience, but more than enough products. You could say I'm being too specific, that I'm not "with it", but then I'd have to hate you.

After some relaxing strolls round book shops and less relaxing one round HMV, I found myself subconsiously entering Currys. It was busy, to be perfectly honest, but I wandered over to the game section, where I hoped to find some interesting PC Games.

Unfortunatly for a large market of both casual and budgeting gamers, PC Gaming is dead. Stone cold. Bludgeoned into sleep in the mid-nineties, the last few remnants of decent game developers have sold out and are now making a too large a majority of games exclusively for consoles. PC games are reduced to being made by shitty independant teams that come up with educational activities, or the last few poor adaptations of large-scale console games.

One thing the PC does have going for it is it's exclusive rights to the RTS genre. PC games have become really about thinking and planning, and while this doesn't really suit most gamers of today, with their fast-paced action fighters, it does help some of the more intelligent ones.

In other news, I'm sorry that I failed to review those two enterprise days. The end equation was too much of a basic teaching experience, and I thought it not too savvy to review such a thing. I could find any faults, for one, and that really doesn't enthuse me.

My review of Alton Towers in the Summer will be mainly concerned around the changes made during the yearly interim, the gardens and historic areas, and of general park hospitality. I look forward to it, and I hope you do to, my dear reader(s).