Archive for February, 2014


Just an Observation

Anyone who tells you there is nothing going on in Edinburgh obviously doesn’t have my invites list and is just as obviously not even bothering to look. Tonight is a perfect example of this with two very different events taking place and overlapping neatly with each other so that a select and well co-ordinated few are able to attend both. First up is that bastion of literary delights and exquisite musical outings that is Neu Reekie at its regular Summerhall base which tonight features, amongst notable others, Momus and The Band of Holy Joy.
At roughly the same time in the town centre-The Voodoo Rooms in West Register Street-the Fini Tribe Soudsystem will be kicking up a storm on the flashing dancefloor in the venue’s French Quarter in the latest instalment of Rammed. A lot of talk has surrounded this event and it will be followed up by a live date to be announced very soon. A fabulous collaboration between several creative types with musical style chopping and changing almost randomly but somehow all sewn together seamlessly, Rammed aims to drag clubbing from its past and into the future.
Certainly not a night to be staying in re-arranging your wardrobe, washing your hair or praying for something decent on the television as it would be more than a shame to miss either or both of these events. Go on treat yourselves!
Not that great nights out are exclusive to the weekend. Tuesday night saw a great solo performance and gig by Sterling Roswell-formerly of legendary space rockers Spaceman 3- at the Parlour Bar in Leith. A totally outstanding performance which the only criticism I have is that it did not go on for longer. The extremely pleasurable and charming Mr. Roswell also gave me a vinyl copy of his band Rosco’s album ‘The Call of the Cosmos’ to review which I shall endeavour to do over the weekend post Rammed and in recovery mode. Certainly the tracks I have heard online seem like just the ticket to assuage my Friday night debauchery as an aural decompression chamber complete with massage.
This coming Tuesday March 4th- Tuesdays are the new Saturdays it would seem- sees a one night showing of a film inspired by Goldfrapp’s beautiful new album ‘Tales of Us’ at the Cameo. This film is followed by a satellite link up to a live show which will be shown simultaneously around the world. This is a worthwhile night not just for fans of the group but for anyone who recognises how important they were for diverting their own, as well as that of others, musical direction in the first ten years of this century, even if their influence has diminished slightly since those halcyon days. ‘Tales of Us’ does see a return to form, of sorts, after their first disappointing album 2010’s ‘Head First’, so seeing how this band who has one of the most strikingly visual performers in the business will interpret their new music visually will be very interesting.
Elsewhere whilst there is serious carnage in the Ukraine there is also carnage here as big businesses, politicians and the like -this week the BBC and Standard Life are the main culprits- all keep throwing their toys out the pram every time the Yes vote for Independence seems to take an upward swing. What none of them seem to realise is that this upward swing is directly related to all the threats, bullying and scaremongering tactics of the naysayers as the Scots are quite rightly sick and tired of these sort of tactics and underhand practices which really only galvanise them into seeing Independence as their only means of escaping them.
Right it is never too early to start getting ready to go out-mentally prepared I mean, although the physical act will not be too far behind- so am off to get ready for a night of mayhem and dancing. Let the weekend begin!
The below link is the visual Rammed Fini Tribe flyer.


Just an Observation

Whilst much of the country has been battered senseless by storms, rain and flood the east coast of Scotland has remained relatively unscathed until this last week when we were battered senseless not by the weather but by February’s never ending round of award ceremonies. Both the Baftas and the Brits had their embarrassing moments. The former had the future King high-fiving the rapper Tinie Tempah and the latter had James Corden and his particularly unfunny and irritating style of presenting not to mention a revered rock star unnecessarily intervening in the Independence Debate by exhorting us to vote No via a speech delivered in absentia by model Kate Moss in an outfit which dated from the last time he actually lived in the UK: that would be forty years ago.
Whilst it is fair to say the issue of who looked better in said outfit from Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust era was never up for debate- David won it hands down- or whether it was one of his better outfits in the first place-definitely not- it is fair to debate whether Bowie was right to offer his opinion from such a platform on a matter which many agree is none of his business. It is not as if he is going to looking for Fife on Mars is it? It certainly felt unnecessary from someone who, apart from a cocaine induced flirtation with fascism in the seventies, has remained apolitical throughout his career.
Whilst there are those who claim he is entitled to his opinion this is always something I contest. Entitlement can never just be assumed and coming from a man who fled this island as soon as the coffers started rolling in and has never returned to live here ever since I feel his sense of entitlement is something he has awarded himself. It is also one which comes from a lifetime of high living-admittedly hard worked for- in comfortable surroundings with the day to day rigours of mundane problems more than likely taken care of by staff and employees.
Perhaps from his Manhattan penthouse it seemed like a relevant bandwagon to jump on and matters were certainly fuelled by his son Duncan Jones, who has a very Scottish sounding name and did actually attend Gordonstoun so can claim his slice of entitlement, who took it upon himself to launch an aggravated attack on Alex Salmond via Twitter. Very good at pontificating and opinion offering form a distance both father and son it would seem. Perhaps he, like so many others, believes that a vote for independence is a vote for Alex Salmond: it isn’t.
Whatever the reasons for Bowie’s misplaced instructions-instructions and being told what to do by others is one thing the Scots have certainly had enough of- he somehow contrived to appear on several front pages the next day which may have been the point all along.
Despite all this I am hardly likely to start burning all my Bowie albums in a misguided form of protest and will continue to enjoy his great works as much as ever and put it down to a misinformed, misguided and indulged rock star overstretching his credibility and importance. He is hardly the first to do that now is he?
Quite a quiet weekend this week but next weekend sees Friday night host two outstanding nights which actually overlap each other. There is the latest Neu Reekie instalment with Momus and the Band of Holy Joy at Summerhall whilst down at the Voodooo Rooms the third instalment of Rammed takes place with the Fini Tribe Soundsystem guesting in what looks like will be an absolute belter of a night.
Already a buzz surrounding the event it also acts as the launch of a variety of remixes of the Fini’s ‘De Testimony’ single with a very limited edition available for purchase on the night itself. Advisable to get there early for this one-it starts at 8- as it looks like living up to its name and being totally Rammed from early doors. Here to whet your appetites is the full length video flyer for Rammed and new mix of the aforementioned Fini Tribe single for the night.


The Brits 2014

And on it goes! The latest sycophantic gathering of an over privileged industry seeking even more validation took place last night in the form of the Brits. Or the Skits if you prefer- which I do- although it could also be referred to as the Mastercard Show due to the prominent product placement of the debacles sponsors at every conceivable moment.
I promised myself I would not put myself through this tortuous experience, hosted by the unctuous buffoon and height of irritation James Corden, ever again after last years diabolical showing. However I sadly found myself in on a Tuesday evening, mid-February with an hour to kill before the excellent BBC2 drama ‘Line Of Duty’ started at 9pm so thought I would give it a whirl if only to work myself up into a sense of annoyance and indignation. There was also the chance that David Bowie might win an award and being a long standing fan thought that at least that part of the evening would make it worthwhile. How wrong could I be?
Surprisingly the show got off to a not too bad start with the Arctic Monkeys passing themselves off as a not too bad imitation of an alright rock band. For the Skits this is something of an achievement in itself. It didn’t take long to deteriorate however and things swiftly went downhill as Corden made his way onto the stage and for a moment I thought so many people’s prayers had been answered when I noticed he was on fire. Unfortunately there was a security man armed with a fire extinguisher on hand to put out the flames and thus disappointment set in as the realisation that we were after all going to sit through two hours of his abominably unfunny chat; where is the lack of security and health and safety measures when you really need them?
From then onwards it seemed like we had been beamed into the Land of the Little People. Prince- looking like an ever cooler Sly Stone-, Kylie and Pharrell Williams flew the flag for the small but perfectly formed brigade. Beyonce, I have always felt, is overrated-yes she is beautiful, yes she works hard but no she does not have any musical relevance. Unfortunately they were drowning in the sea of blandness made up by the likes of Katy Perry and Ellie Goulding, about whom I could barely contain my indifference . One Erection? Well, really?
As to the award itself, what exactly is a designer like Philip Treacy doing demeaning himself by associating his art with such an embarrassing fiasco? His design was certainly not among his more notable but I must admit I paid it more attention than those who were receiving it. Who won what? Again, I find it almost impossible to care.
The only award I was interested in was David Bowie as best male solo artist and was pleased when his name was announced. Even better it came with the only controversy of the night. Who looked better in the woodland creature onesie that Kate Moss wore to receive the award on his behalf: David or Kate?
Seriously though the main controversy of the night came during the speech Bowie had written for Moss to voice. For some reason a London born and bred multi- millionaire who has not lived in Britain for forty years felt obliged to let us know that he feels Scotland should vote No in the Independence Debate. Why is still unclear. Having kept away from politics throughout most of his career, especially after a dangerous flirtation with fascism during his coked out mid-seventies heyday, it seemed like a misguided and stupid attempt to appear relevant.
It is even more outrageous and incongruous considering the thing about Bowie that has always appealed to his fans –particularly of the generation who remember his seventies output- is that he always encouraged autonomy of thought. If he thought his opinion was relevant or even mattered then he seriously needs to come down from his Manhattan penthouse a little more often. He didn’t even bother to show up to collect his award preferring to accept it in absentia via (high as a) Kate who did his pontificating for him.
Back to the really serious matter of the night however and I have concluded that despite his political affiliations David wins the onesie competition hands down.
After this letdown from someone I have always admired, I abandoned the Brits due to inertia and terminal boredom. As I say every year this is the last time I ever watch it although I never actually do watch it I just allow it to nibble away at the edges of my consciousness without ever letting it have a serious bite. At least next year James Corden will have returned to his comedy career- when did comedy require you to be so unfunny?-and it can only be that little bit more bearable. Not that I will be watching!



This Spike Jonze written and directed film starring Joaquin Phoenix and set in the near future carries an air of melancholy as it delves into the romantic entanglement between a lonely man, still reeling from the pain of his divorce, and his burgeoning love affair with an Operating System (OS) on his computer. Not as fantastical as it originally sounds as scenes featuring streams of people moving through the wistful sunshine of LA proves, as they appear to be more engaged with their phones, laptops and pads than with each other and the feeling that becoming more and more connected with technology results in a disconnection from humanity.
It is a high-waisted world of nerdy types which Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) inhabits as a letter writer for those who no longer know how to express themselves adequately. Having recently separated from his wife and involved in the machinations of divorce he embarks into the risky world of dating where one encounter leaves him disorientated and disheartened after being labelled a ‘creepy dude’. This leads to him starting up a relationship with an OS named Samantha-voiced seductively by Scarlett Johanssen-and love quickly and unexpectedly blossoms.
What seems to be a perfect relationship quickly reveals not only its own limitations but also its own set of problems. Almost immediately Theodore becomes entranced by this fantasy figure and believes their relationship to be mutually exclusive and wholly satisfying. However in an attempt to spice things up a human surrogate volunteers themselves as a real life sexual partner intermediary between the would-be lovers with expectedly awkward results.
Gradually Theodore becomes more and more reliant on his virtual lover and even double dates with work colleagues, where such behaviour is not only accepted but seems normal as does his confiding in his close friend and ex-girlfriend Amy(Amy Adams) who has also become involved intimately with an OS.
The melancholy which runs through the seam of this film prepares you for the emotional letdown which inevitably arrives at the film’s dénouement. It is sadness which combines the loss of human expression and disengagement from each other as our lives become more advanced technologically and the troubles of human interaction are burdensome. Ultimately the message is that any emotional involvement is as draining and occupying as the next and disappointment and despair are a direct result of this.
As a film Her works if you are looking for a thoughtful, involved piece of cinema. It is devoid of all the big tricks and plot devices that have been rife in the bulk of this year’s best movies. It is an old fashioned love story for the future wearing its high-waisted trousers and message, that we should neither immerse or attach ourselves too deeply in technology, somewhat plaintively.


Baftas 2014
2013 Baftas

And so the round of award ceremonies, with their insincere heartfelt thanks and validation for those who demand more than most, begins with the Stephen Fry Show or the Baftas if you prefer to call it by its lesser known name. This year there has been a surfeit of great films-most released in the last two months in case the voters have short memories I presume- and most managed to take home a major prize thus ensuring no one film emerged as a runaway winner, although both Gravity and 12 Years A Slave triumphed several times in their nominated categories. There was even an ongoing joke about the Duke of Cambridge being Helen Mirren’s grandson-the Duke and the other Queen, Fry, made lame attempts to induce some hilarity out of this- due to a role she once memorably played. Oh, how we didn’t laugh!
However Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street missed out on its best chance of an award for Leonardo DiCaprio’s outstanding performance as Jordan Belfort and of all the major contenders was the only film to leave empty handed. I was disappointed that probably one of the most underwhelming films I have seen in the last year , Philomena, win the best adapted screenplay but was delighted to see Jennifer Lawrence win for her supporting role in American Hustle as she was my favourite character and performance in this film which had so many to choose from.
Chiwetel Ejiofor may have deservedly won for 12 Years A Slave-DiCaprio would have been my first choice-but I thought Michael Fassbender may also have walked off with best supporting actor as his performance was of such an intense and commanding nature he stole most scenes he was in. The supporting actor award however went to relative newcomer Barkhab Abdi for Captain Philips, a film I have not seen due to the fact I am a total Tom Hanks phobic and find it impossible to sit through anything he is in.
Cate Blanchett came up against stiff competition in her category –Amy Adams and Judi Dench although the least said about Sandra Bullock the better- but waltzed off with the Best Actress prize for her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
Controversy reared its head over Gravity winning the Best British Film category with it being directed by the Mexican Alfonso Cuaron and starring Bullock and George Clooney, both big Hollywood players, but it was filmed in England with a British crew and most of the post production effects were added here so it seems quite fitting it won this category. If any film in the last year has been about the effects then Gravity was it.
Usually seen as less prestigious dry run for the Oscars next month it will be interesting to see whether there is as much diversity in their choices or whether one film will dominate above all others. Personally I feel it will be a close call between 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle but as I am unaware of insider industry politics and who has been kissing the most asses over the last twelve months it is hard to predict any inevitable outcome. Lat night merely showed that quite rightly several different films need to be commended on individual achievements and as such it made more sense that with such a strong line up each received awards recognising this.
As a footnote let it be noted that the dresses were, in the main, quite awful. Brad and Angelina looked good in their matching tuxedos though. A lesson in glamour so many could learn from that might, in the future, prevent them from looking like dropped trifles.


Just an Observation

For those who indulge in such frivolity I would just like to say ‘Happy Valentines Day’ and to the rest of you I simply say ‘Welcome to the weekend’. For those who want to combine both Valentines day and the weekend then I can think of no better place to start than Lux Lives at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh tonight and at McChuills in Glasgow tomorrow. Certainly I will be there swinging my carcass around to the primal beats of the various Cramps celebratory acts on show and if this doesn’t make your weekend swing then probably your weekend ain’t got no swing!
Also happening tonight is Woodland Creatures first birthday party from 7pm onwards. In a week that an article appeared claiming Leith Walk as the best high street in Scotland-even though technically it isn’t a high street- it is fitting that this bar situated halfway down is celebrated as part of that achievement as it has done a lot in providing a bar with integrity and style for those who are seeking these things. Especially in an area which has not always been renowned for such qualities. Although I am not an ardent pub goer I have found myself in Woodland Creatures on several occasions since it opened- every time has been a most pleasurable experience- and I don’t even live in the locale.
It is not alone in the renaissance of Leith Walk however as it would appear that quite a burgeoning underground scene is occurring in the area whilst the city centre is busy pandering to tourists and stag and hen parties. It certainly says something about uptown when I body swerve the mundane offerings there and head down to Leith to catch up with some really interesting folk and worthwhile events.
Another venue which is well worth checking out this week is Summerhall and its Spring shows. Lat week saw the opening of this event and Colin Jarvie’s In Praise of Shadows retrospective which turned out to be a great night where anyone who was anyone involved in creating a youthful vibrant scene in Edinburgh, so many years ago, turned out in force looking more glamorous and healthy than many of us deserved to.
Another highlight-there are many so give yourselves a good few hours and get along there to check them all out- was definitely Kevin Williamson’s Love to Love You Baby installation which is a Donna Summer tribute and also the best dance you will have in a disco complete with strobes and flashing lights. I certainly spent the best Tuesday afternoon I have had in years there this week and I have the photos and videos to prove it. I did wonder however if there was a secret camera filming each person’s reaction whilst they were in there but I didn’t let this stop or trouble me too much. Obviously!
Things are even looking up on the television front this week with the return of ‘Line of Duty’ for a second series. I know it is yet another police drama but the interesting thing about this one is the fact it is police investigating themselves, or at least the corruption that exists in the force. From the opening sequence the tension was ratcheted up to full whilst the drama never let up and at the denouement of the first episode I was on the edge of my seat, literally gagging for more.
It is reassuring to see the BBC provide some decent drama for a change-last years ‘The Fall’ was another series of note-and something to fill the void left by the departure of Nordic Noir-such as ‘The Bridge’ and ‘The Killing’- though I still feel they need to rethink their scheduling as one hour every week is simply an outdated mode of showing dramas such as these especially in a culture of box sets. The BBC are probably the only station who have not recognised this –even ITV with its two hour ‘Midsomer Murders’ have cottoned onto this although I feel that these are often at least one hour fifty nine minutes too long- and also seem to consign their highest quality dramas to BBC2. Again, I feel they underestimate their audience and this is always a grave mistake.
Out at the cinema Dallas Buyers Club is yet another great film released so far in the early stages of 2014. Both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are up for nominations for their performances and, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, I think they are the most deserving of all the contenders in their categories. A full review of the film can be found here.
There has been a lot of healthy-and some not so- debating concerning the Scottish independence vote over the last week. A supposed major cog in the wheel reared its head concerning the currency debate with the three major Westminster parties saying that if Scotland does vote for independence then it will no longer allowed to use the pound as its chosen currency.
Whilst I am not in possession of the full details of the issue I must admit that it does sound suspiciously like the bullying and intimidating tactics of those who are running scared. That it comes in the week after it was announced that the ‘Yes’ vote is gaining momentum faster than the ‘No’ vote is even more suspect to me. Surely even if Scotland does vote for independence it is in the best interests of the rest of the UK to allow them to continue to use the pound as this will preserve at least some of the union they insist is so important to them. Or is it only important to them on their terms alone?
Right, if this weekend is beginning then I better make a move and try and locate that dark heart of mine in time to get Cramped later. It is also the two week countdown to the next Rammed featuring the Fini Tribe Soundsytem and this is another night which promises to be something special so clear a date for February 28th in your diaries and there will be more details about this next week.


Dallas Buyers Club

Continuing Matthew McConaughey’s renaissance as a serious actor- Killer Joe, Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street are already under his belt- and this performance as Ron Woodroff in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyer’s Club looks like it may be the performance which might actually win him an Oscar. It is a performance which has almost been overshadowed by Mc Conaughey’s dramatic weight loss in the striving for authenticity in attaining the physique of an AIDS sufferer. However the proof is in the pudding-one spoonful a day apparently- and it is a towering performance proving, if proof were still needed, that McConaughey is a credible actor.
Despite this McConaughey does not carry the weight off this whole film on his shoulders alone as Jared Leto, in the supporting role of fellow AIDS sufferer and pre-op transsexual Rayon, is also mesmerising. In fact it could be said that this film more than any other Oscar contender is solely about the performances as these two reign supreme in their roles.
Yet another ‘true life’ tale this film starts in 1985 around the time of Rock Hudson’s death and the propagation of the idea that AIDS and HIV are notoriously thought of as some sort of ‘gay plague’. It therefore comes as something of a shock to homophobic rodeo rider Woodroff when he is diagnosed positive and his initial belief that only homosexuals can contract the disease have to be reassessed when he realises that unprotected sex-heterosexual or homosexual- with an intravenous drug user can be just as fatal.
After initially being in denial about his plight and unable to get on a funded drug programme he takes matters into his own hands and works out a way of prolonging his life whilst also making a profit via various loops in the law alongside ignorance in medical circles. It is only when he teams up with Rayon however that he is able to put his own prejudices aside and stop behaving like such a ‘homophobic asshole’ and start assisting others alongside himself.
What starts up as a purely cynical business arrangement between this odd couple becomes through understanding, compassion and necessity, a true friendship as Ron finds himself dragged into a demimonde and nether world which had been a closed book to him previously due to the circles he had previously mixed in; due to his illness the rejection and humiliation his so called friends forced upon meant he found himself alone, enabling him to gain a more fulfilling perspective on life in general.
As stated before this is a film mainly about its performances although it is also an extremely touching tale –there is an emotionally symbolic death scene- set against occasional moments of genuine humour –Woodroff masturbating unknowingly to the ambiguous beauty of Marc Bolan who serves as an idol to Rayon- and the interaction between the three central characters –Jennifer Garner as a sympathetic doctor also gives a notable performance-is never less than engaging.
Whilst Mc Connaughey and Leto are definite contenders in the Oscar race the film despite all its intentions is probably too left field to win in the best film category but this in no way should put you off seeing what is a worthwhile film of integrity and emotional drive.