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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Indie Anthology 24: essential songs

I'm on a roll, listening to hundreds of songs, from this year (preparing the best-of-the-year lists) and from my past (recent and not so recent). I guess change is around the corner (I know, cryptic mood I'm in). So here's another chapter of this personal music anthology. Jangle pop's perfection.

Song: Cabin Fever
Artist: The Liberty Ship
Year: 2004

Guitar pop, jangle pop, or just classic indie pop. It really doesn't matter how do you try to define that sort of style. Get perfect tunes like this wonderful "Cabin Fever" from this Nottingham's quartet ("Tide" the record on which this gem was included shouldn't be missed by any indie pop lover) instead, also a perfect example of the "Matinée Recordings' style" and the reason why we love that label so much. Is the melody revealing itself through every chord. Is that pulsing beat coming from the drums, a pulse awaiting for the chorus to emerge, looking for its latest assault when the tempo will push (just a little bit) in order to provide the climax to the tune. Is the clear and echoing voice of Marc Elston waving among the Rickenbackers (of course) cascades of sound. Is the passion. Put it simply, an instant classic tune.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Discoverer 47: new indie findings

Elections day this Sunday, but there's always time for great new bands to discover!

Guards. DNA matters. This trio formed in NY City in 2010 by Richie James Follin, brother of our beloved Madeline Follin of Cults. Initially wrote some tunes for her, but ended keeping them for himself, with the help of friends like Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, MGMT's James Richardson and Madeline, of course. Then came a series of 7" to keep the buzz going until the release of "In Guards We Trust", debut album expected for February 2013. Sure comparisons and expectations will be recurrent, because they certainly sound like Cults and that joyful bunch of retro-pop bands. But hey, while they deliver perfect indiepop pills like "Coming True" or "Silver Lining" who cares? Fated for big things, believe me.    
Guards - Coming True by Guards
Guards - Silver Lining by Guards

Cameras. Down to Sidney to meet this quartet (previously trio). Formed in 2008 by Eleanor Dunlop and Fraser Harvey due to their “mutual love for layering darker dirtier sounds with warmer delicate melodies”, on 2011 they released "In Your Room", very successful debut that now arrives the rest of the world. A bipolar band, when Dunlop sings they sound like the missed Broadcast or Chan Marshall on an M83 tune, while when Harvey leads its like discovering forgotten tunes from Interpol's "Turn On the Bright Lights". Atmospheric or aggressive, the album shares a haunting mood, a bleak vibe that gives it a unusual coherence. Fascinating music.
Bored Nothing. Still in Australia, we move to Melbourne to meet Fergus Miller, who under this pseudonym has just packed some of his best tunes, added a bunch of new ones and have released three weeks ago on a self-titled debut album that has to be seriously highlighted. Stylistically diverse, Fergus can make you think on Daniel Johnston, Sebadoh, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Real Estate from one song to another. You can say this is DIY lo-fi indierock very much devoted to the 90's. But to hell with labelling music. This is the sort of magic you can create with an electric guitar, good taste and tones of talent.
Bored Nothing

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Indie Anthology 23: essential songs

I know, I know. My previous post was already a chapter of this very particular indie Anthology . But while doing my research of new bands for tomorrow's "Discoverer" section, I've found the new release of a band I had completely forgotten. So it was a fantastic excuse to "clean the dust" of a lovely EP.

Song: Ride My Star
Artist: The Girl With the Replaceable Head
Year: 2001

Ten years already since I received this extremely simple, b/w EP from the now defunct Bus Stop Label in my mailbox? Wow, time flies. And usually has no mercy. Except with great music. Wonderful tunes resist everything. It was 2002 when I discovered this hypnotic, marvellous trio of songs. Immediately grabbed a copy through the Internet (not that usual buying that way then). And the leading force of the three was "Ride My Star". That simple start with keyboards before the melody and mellow female vocals arrive were pure bliss. The whole song was enveloped on an aura of pure magic, slightly fuzzy despite its "bedroom style", and I guess, small budget for production. Yeah, it was lo-fi when lo-fi wasn't "cool". It was C86 when that was "yesterday's news". But guess what? Eleven years after, it still stops the time. At least for me. 

No youtube video this time, but here's the link of the EP

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Indie Anthology 22: essential songs

New chapter of our Anthology, that this time also aims to be a (modest) but open vindication of a group, then a solo artist, criminally neglected despite being responsible of a couple of records plus an EP that are among the most beautiful music created in the last 15 years.

Song: Coat
Artist: Angelou
Year: 2000

How uncool is admitting I wasn't impressed at all by Jeff Buckley's "Grace"? Or that I didn't know about Nick Drake? During my university years it was mainly R.E.M. and jangle-pop bands, plus a bunch of female singer-songwriters (Beth Orton on top). But thanks to mythical radio programs like "Boulevard" or "Siglo XXI" (how important was Radio3 for our musical education, sadly those days are gone) a new voice appeared. It was Holly Lerski fragile, mysterious but warm folk-rock. For me, first came "Hallellujah EP". I remember going back and forth on my Walkman to listen again & again my crappy radio recording of their haunting cover of "River Man". Angelou made me discover Nick Drake. Then came a pretty odd, Spanish only, compilation of their tunes entitled "Midnight Witcheries" that was absolutely flawless (and now a very important person in my life possess).  It wasn't enough. "Automatic Miracles" followed, and then "While You Were Sleeping". An absolute favourite of mine. Ethereal, delicate, intimate. Where instruments aren't just playing, they are shining. Where silences and space are also notes. And where simplicity equals purity and honesty. Melodies that seem suspended in the air, expected to the band to be grabbed. Abducted as a I was by the record, the tune "Little Sister" "forced" me to check Buckley again. Luckily. Holly, please come back! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Ted”, teddy bears & Peter Pans


It seemed a good option to change, quite radically, for the sort of movie I have been watching lately. Besides, a comedy that was advertised as “Family Guy” gets “flesh & bone” seemed a pretty interesting choice. I’m not the biggest fan of the show (in my opinion, it’s pretty disjointed and uneven), but I do admit it’s hilarious, irreverent (mocking about everything and everyone is a healthy thing imo) and surreal.

And ”Ted” is “Family Guy” or “American Dad” indeed. A nice attempt to make a movie that could mix realistic characters with that sort of brutally surreal and let’s admit it, really funny, impossible situations that are the show's trademark. Of course, the “Family Guy” most obvious factor is Ted, the teddy bear, a mix between Brian and Stewie Griffin from “Family Guy” and Roger from “American Dad”. Motion-capture animation has allowed Seth MacFarlane (creator of both shows) to take his recurrent character that “shouldn't behave like humans but behaves like one” to the next level.

With that being said, "Ted" is a story about growing up, a premise that is quite frequent on the so-called “New American comedy”. Along with our peculiar teddy bear, now we have John Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg, who is basically a 35 years old guy with a spectacular Peter Pan’s syndrome. Go figure, his best friend still is a teddy bear. The story development is simple. John would need to do something with his life, also forced by his girlfriend, played by Mila Kunis, who wants their relationship to move on. But that would mean change his friendship-for-life relationship with Ted. And there the problems and crazy situations begin.

It is clear the story itself is not original, and some parts, in particular in what refers to some secondary roles and the “kidnapping” subplot, never achieve its promise and feel out of place. MacFarlane clearly keeps the focus on John and Lori, and how Ted’s seem to be in the middle of them. But the script survives thanks to the "heart" on the love-story between them, as the situations might be silly, unbelievable and “ridiculous”, but both Wahlberg and Kunis seem very real in the exposure of their feelings, and, of course, because of the amount of hilarious situations. Pop culture references, job seeking, celebrities cameos, violence, drug abuse, sex and profanity coming from the mouth and actions of the most adorable teddy bear. Surprisingly, all this mixture works quite well, conforming a film that looks more cohesive than expected. “Ted” is not a succession of sketches.

It shouldn’t be topping the best-of-the-year films, but with a doubt, its an irreverent and funny one, with amusing moments.

SCORE: 6,5/10

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Discoverer 46: new indie findings

We're back with our Sunday dose of new bands proposals for you, enjoy!

The Holiday Crowd. Our first band comes from Toronto, but judging for how they sound, you would say they hail from a grey and rainy British borough, not very far from London, in the 80s. The foursome formed in 2010, describing themselves as "minimal and stripped-down" which is an incredibly wrong definition. Because if you listen to their debut mini-album "Over the Bluffs", out in Shelflife since January, or the forthcoming (next week) 7" "Sick Days" you won't find anything "minimal". On the contrary, this is an impressively beautiful, expansive and touching collection of tunes. A heartwarming, epic (the Morrisseysque voice, the chiming guitars) and vital dose of the best jangle-pop.
The Holiday Crowd - Over The Bluffs sampler

Sleeping Policemen. German bands are not very usual on this blog, sadly. That's why I'm specially happy introducing you to this Hamburg quintet. Discovered thanks to the infinite good taste of EardrumsPop, with whom they have just released a very nice EPop single. But I wasn't "that" convinced. I needed more songs. Something that I have found after checking their self-titled debut album, out since March. Gentle indie-pop, sometimes beautifully embellished and melancholic, others upbeat and straightforward, but always shiny, welcoming and full of irresistible melodies.

September Girls. And our third band comes from the haunting Dublin, thanks to another referential label, Matinee Recordings. The all-female five-piece band formed in September 2011, debuting with a limited cassette single on Soft Power Records in April 2012 (sold out within a week). More recording and touring followed, releasing a trio of 7 inch EPs this autumn. Eps that you should check out, as this band play the most absorbing and infectious garage pop tunes I have heard in a long while. Fuzzy and noisy yet harmonic (these girl group vocals are disarming) and melodic. Their music make no prisoners, comes like a rush of blood to your head and affects all your senses. You have been warned.  

September Girls sampler 

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Ununiversalizable Us", under The Very Most charms

Ununiversalizable Us EP

We have had an EP from The Hermit Crabs and another one from Baffin Island this year. So there was one missing. I'm referring, of course, to a new work from our beloved friend Jeremy Jensen, leader of The Very Most. "Ununiversalizable Us", out yesterday (released on a Spanish label, Little Treasure Records, there's still hope for us!), completes that triumvirate of releases, and does it so offering some unexpected fresh, adventurous new forms. At least in half of this four songs.

"Ununiversalizable Us", the song that also gives the title to the EP, is a very ambitious tune. Initially built on relentless synths that creates a mysterious melody and a simple but insidious percussion, then flourishes into an elaborated composition where guitars offer a radical departure from the way the song begun. There are cymbals and bells chiming, colliding in an explosive chorus where sweet female vocals appear. And sorry, but I have to write it down in capital letters, a MIND-BLOWING FLUTE! Not enough? There's more: a darker side, an edge that you can grasp in the lyrics, which makes the song even more haunting. You don't have to believe my words, just the check the beautiful and very blue new website of TVM and illustrate yourself. All in all, an outstanding song, from now on one of my favourites from the band.

"There's Nothing Missing" is a far more recognisable TVM tune, but I'm afraid it suffers from being next to such a fantastic previous tune, full of novelties. The slowest number on the EP, it is mellow and atmospheric. It's easy to imagine yourself on a quiet and crystalline beach as the sunset falls, warm and welcoming. The Boise, Idaho band has that trademark talent to capture a melody and provide an envelope of lushness and closeness to the listener, but the song doesn't arrive much further from that comfort zone.    

"Changed Me", despite being slightly more upbeat, seems to follow close in terms of atmosphere and sounding. But this time it is hard not to fall in front of its many charms. A graceful female-male duet, smooths, oceanic notes that seem to vanish slowly, carrying us to that unexpected inner burst that ends in a smooth but heavenly epic jam.

And finally, we have "Let Her Dance" a cover from Bobby Fuller that sounds cheerful and vibrant, a rush of vitality were intertwined male-female vocals shine again. The straightest tune of the lot, sure, but by the time the guitar solo appears... you know it's going to be in your head. For a long time. That's, at the end, the major strength of (good) pop music. Great tunes remain with you, grow on you, stuck on you. To find that sort of tunes is hard. Thankfully, we have bands like The Very Most. They have plenty of them. Like these new, very strong, ones. In all modesty, I won't give up in my attempt of "universalizing" their music as much as I can. They deserve it.

SCORE: 7,5/10

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Baffin Island EP, near perfect indie pop equation

Baffin Island EP

Let's talk about maths today. Here's a very special equation for your indiepop brains: Half The Hermit Crabs + Half The Very Most= Baffin Island. 

I don't know what this equation equals in maths, but in music means gorgeous indie pop. Two of the most beloved bands of this blog joining forces again in another EP (remember that great debut on EardrumsPop?), out now in WeePOP!     

"Sorry For Myself" opens the EP with sweetness. It has the joyful music DNA of The Very Most, and despite Melanie Whittle's vocals are probably a bit hidden within the -delicious, shiny- mix, by the time the backing vocals appear, you already have fallen in love with the tune. Granted and certified by the combination of two bands that really now about pop.

"This Year" follows in a breezy, moody way, a perfect song for a grey day outside, or for last, crucial dance of the night party. Reminds me to Camera Obscura's slower tracks, even in Mel's vocals... but why it didn't last longer? It's a cruelty to end such a beautiful song that soon.

"That Summer Feeling" is a Jonathan Richman cover, something that I suppose has a lot to do with Jeremy Jensen's personal tastes. It's a fine tune, that fits really nice with Mel's vocals, but in my opinion is the less remarkable tune of the lot, as it gets a bit repetitive in its tone, probably because that plaintive beat, almost like a programmed pulse, over which the line "that summer feeling is going to haunt you the rest of your life" like a mantra.

But we quickly reach the final song, "We Were Meant to Meet", a more upbeat number that sounds closer to The Hermit Crabs to me, and its probably the stand-out of this EP. The drums rattling on the chorus, the magic interlude, the lush and bright crescendo near the end... All in all, a pure pop gem.

Aww, if all mathematics were as wonderful as this (music) equation!

SCORE: 7/10

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Willard & His Bowling Trophies", tragic surrealism

Willard and His Bowling Trophies: A Perverse Mistery
Richard Brautigan

Two couples. Three brothers. A bird sculpture surrounded by bowling trophies. Sex. Depression. Sadomasochism. Greek tragedies. Violence. A fated destiny. Who else other than Richard Brautigan could create a novel with that material?

"Willard and His Bowling Trophies" is surreal again, a trademark than everyone who has read any of the works from Brautigan should expect. But this time surrealism is not in the stories per se, as they are (even it is oddity) credible, but in their connection. Willard and the trophies are the elements, the objects that links the stories. A bird and trophies that seem to be alive, that can be the symbol of many things, or nothing else than (silly) objects.

It is also pure Brautigan in what refers to style. Odd poetic prose, a disarmingly simple yet affecting writing, with bombastic turns of phrase. You'll find yourself saying what?, or laughing, or feeling completely appalled.

And that's what makes "Willard" different from other Brautigan's books I have read. I found this novel really sad, even depressing, very close to "An Unfortunate Woman" in that sense, or like "In Watermelon Sugar", but without any utopia. The forthcoming tragedy, even if surreal, is almost evident from the very first page, and its focused on the masochistic couple. The husband is a pathetic character, and his suffering (also literally) wife, a silent mourning, frustrated one. Sex, that should pleasant and the best expression of love between the two, is not enjoyable anymore. The Logan brothers turn their stupidity, but also innocence, that at first might be hilarious into a violent seek that reveals an evil side, some sort of anger against humanity developed by such a trivial fact (getting their trophies stolen). It's a novel about fate, in which circumstances, and people, are weird, and tragedy is the end of the road.

To me, and this is the fifth book I read from him, Brautigan's work is always fascinating, because he is a unique writer, a counterculture icon, with an unparalleled view for literature, and an extraordinary braveness in the stories he penned. But despite much more linear and less confusing than “In Watermelon Sugar”, "Willard" is, again, not a book for everyone. Being such a straightforward novel, I personally think the lack of humour harms it. Everything is quite absurd indeed, but its depressingly absurd this time.

SCORE: 6/10

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A night with Neil Hannon, the charming man

The Divine Comedy. An Evening With Neil Hannon. Auditori de Girona, November 2nd
The charming man
Photo: Bloodbuzzed

Finally back online (Internet problems are crucifying us), and the first thing pending was, without a doubt, the chronicle of Mr. Neil Hannon, aka The Divine Comedy, in Girona. A very special, long expected, and gratifying evening alongside the music of the charming (and a bit worryingly thin) Irishman, as the universal song by The Smiths was unintentionally announcing.

We had our worries, sure. Would the audience listen him? We weren't sure if a gig in Girona (the city was having its autumn celebrations week), part of the Temporada Alta Festival, would be that successful, or if people would know his music. Some scary "ladies of certain age", with tones of make-up  on her faces, and kids among the public weren't the nicest signs. Then, as the quite beautiful auditorium was getting full, some of the public gathered behind the stage, which was a bit weird. Even with Neil appeared, he seemed shocked because of that strange location of a few concertgoers. But he quickly managed it, transforming it into an element to joke and make funny remarks about.

Mr. Hannon on piano. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
The gig started with him on piano playing tunes from his latest album "Bang Goes the Knighthood", like "Assume the Perpendicular", that opened the concert, "The Complete Banker" with its wise and so true lyrics or record title "Bang Goes the Knighthood". In between of them, the first classic, "Generation Sex". By then, we were certain than we didn't have to fear. The public was enthusiastic, and, at least on the front rows, knew his songs. 

And on guitar. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
As it happened two years ago, when I was lucky to saw Neil in this acoustic, intimate show format in Barcelona, songs on the piano were alternated with short breaks in which our beloved singer/composer/one-man band switches the instrument for a guitar. "Perfect Love Song", with a surreal guitar-tuning moment and the haunting "Lucy" (great rescue) were excellent choices to change the mood before "attacking some darker melodies again on piano.

"Geronimo", "Snowball in Negative", or the baroque "When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe", which I found more appealing in its live & "naked" version than recorded arrived at the central and more "dense" section of the gig. But fortunately, Neil has an outstanding presence live. A mixture between a mischievous kid (these looks) a goofy, theatrical comedian (fake cigarettes?) and some sort of a distant, subtle impersonation of Oscar Wilde singing songs about love, loss and human miseries.

Indie Piano Man. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

But in my opinion, you can only make fun, being a musician, if you have talent and songs to show it. Otherwise, you are a fraud. And Neil's weighs zillions of tones. How many could transform "Time to Pretend", the MGMT's ubiquitous tune into a perfectly suitable song from The Divine Comedy with such grace? Who can merge it with "National Express" and made them fit as if they were created on the same studio session? Or engage people with such a difficult tune, extremely wordy like "The Lost Art of Conversation"?

"Songs of Love". Photo: Bloodbuzzed
And most importantly, who can match such an immaculate indiepop banquet for the listener in the final stage of the concert and still exclude many amazing tunes (missed "Absent Friends")?  Let's name it. Just him and his guitar he played "Songs of Love" (funniest comments of the night for me regarding how "disgusting" the lyrics of the songs are, still smiling one week after when I remember) followed by "A Lady of Certain Age". And back on piano, "Our Mutual Friend" and the epic finale of "Tonight We Fly". Mind-blowing. With the public giving the Irishman a standing ovation, it was a matter of seconds he returned to the stage for an encore, playing "The Frog Princess" and "I Like", which, and on a personal note, was the perfect song to end the gig. Thanks for another evening to remember Neil.

Side note: Cheers for your 42nd birthday, dear Neil!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"If You Liked School, You'll Love Work", the filth and the fun

If You Liked School, You'll Love Work- Irvine Welsh 

After enjoying "Reheated Cabbage" a lot, I wanted to give it another shot to Irvine Welsh's short fiction, so I got my hands on "If You Liked School, You'll Love Work" quickly, expecting another dose of the Scottish writer punching and vitriolic prose.

And that's exactly what I have found in this book. For the good, and also for the not so good. Maybe it has to do more with the structure of the five stories, closer to novellas, with "Kingdom of Fife" clocking over 200 pages, a novel on its own. Or maybe it is just that feeling of being there, done (in that case read) that.

The familiar territory for the reader arrives in several areas. First and foremost, in his writing style, straightforward, direct, dynamic and irreverent. Whether you like or not, it will get you, and most of the times, you will find yourself laughing. Then in many of the characters and their behaviours (men are all again chaotic Peter Pans with a mind focused in sex and violence is always present) And finally, you have the stories themselves.

"Rattlesnakes", the first one of the collection, it might be Welsh's sickest story I have ever read from him. It's worse than that. Scatology and violence have been ever-present trademarks of his prose, but the usual shadow or open irony has completely disappeared here. Put it simply, it's creepy, gross.

"If You Liked School, You'll Love Work" is Welsh-by-numbers, the novelty is moving the sex-obsessed British to an unusual location, Lanzarote. But despite being the lightest of the lot, its among the best of this compilation, because is a really funny, contagious, absorbing tale.

"The DOGS of Lincoln Park" on the contrary, rates among the most challenging and refreshing. Traditionally male-minded, this story is completely feminine, and a bit surprisingly, it works. It's a satire with an acid but at the same time seriously sad background, as it portrays the hollow lives of a bunch of pretty horrible, posh and repulsive young Americans. 

Alongside with the previous one comes "Miss Arizona", in which Welsh adopts a more traditional tale approach that turns into a more morbid, chilling story as we reach its end. Cinema, myth, fallen idols, a dark side that is notorious, right from the start, but reveals itself slowly. It's a very suggestive story.

And we finally reach the latest one, "Kingdom of Fife", where my mixed feelings about the whole book can be summarised. On the positive side, there's fun, the usual ability of Welsh to engage you, to make you read more and more, and the creation of an interesting bidirectional structure, male-female, that works nicely, as an impossible sort of diary. But on the not so positive, the male perspective receives a lot more attention and has the weight of the story, which is frustrating, as Jenny Cahill is a far more attractive character, with a lot of potential, than Jason (which, on the other hand, it is again very funny). Besides, some secondary roles are wasted (Jason's father deserved much more!) and there's a sensation the story is a bit messy.

Will entertain you, for sure, but I do believe Welsh's has reached higher levels in other books.

SCORE: 6,25/10

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"London: The Modern Babylon", the roaring city

London: The Modern Babylon
Beefeater In-Edit 2012, Chapter V

A wonderful way to end this 10th edition of the In-Edit Festival. A genuine premiere, with the presence of director Julien Temple who was kind enough to answer some questions of the audience and chat a little after the film, but mostly a really remarkable documentary that reveals an impressive, titanic work of a director who has a tremendous, rare talent for combining visuals, music and ideas brilliantly.

I can only imagine how monstrous has to be the task of selecting bits from 120 years of history of a city like London, just to summarize them and try to offer a complete portray from such a vibrant place. Sure Temple spent never ending tones of time at the British Film Institute’s archives. Tracing London’s chronology in this exhaustive way must have been exhausting. But what it is worse, it could have been exhausting and not very rewarding. Tones of footage, interviews, pieces of movies, etc, etc, doesn't mean an interesting film. On the contrary, and being honest, it could have been a very boring stuff without an inner coherence or a direction. But Julien Temple, and that's why "London: The Modern Babylon" deserves to be highlighted, knows where he wants to go with his film.

Because this documentary is not a pleasant postcard of a city, willing to export its beautiful locations, investment opportunities or exciting attractions. Don't expect a "London welcomes you for the Olympics" kind-of-film. The film is an absorbing statement on social change, transformation. It's a vital process, one that dates back from the British Empire, suffers and evolves dramatically with the two World Wars, welcomes and rejects the recurrent migratory waves, struggles with shameful politicians (always Thatcher) and wannabe leaders and reacts, regularly, with violence, and social angst, against injustices. As Madness' Suggs describes wisely “People get taken in and become part of the city itself and change the city. And that’s the whole point. The place keeps changing.

If something has to be criticised, it should be the considerable effort the films requires from the spectator, or at least the non-Londoner. More than two hours of imagery, music and clipping structure, with a (logic) slower beginning about the early 20th century. But I assure you it is worth the effort. Temple, a master of film edition, is capable of capturing the vitality of a city in all its forms and builds a narrative conformed by several layers, a well-taken, vivid collage, full of humanism. Its an extraordinary example of what we call "collective memory". Parallelisms between time periods and relevant dates (mostly tragic) abound, so the idea that city life is cyclical permeates in your mind. "The London Mob" arouses throughout the history of the place. A structure is built, then is fought, battled. Then London begins again.

Another factor I believe its worth highlighting is how Temple's puts his focus in ordinary people. With the exceptions of a few opinions, Londoners are the ones who develop the city's story. The clarity of mind of Hetty Bower, incredibly vital despite her 106 year-old is shocking and uplifting. From waving goodbye to soldiers on World War I to taking part of the Battle of Cable Street against Edward Mosley fascists to support today's Occupy movement in just a killer sentence: “They’re asking for the basis of our society to be questioned, and I think that is correct.” Through the eyes and voice of people like Hetty we are told a story of poverty, much suffering, surveillance, and a common brave spirit of getting active and fearless to react, to fight for change.

Temple doesn't doubt to establish an obvious correlation between the bursts of social creativity (in the arts, music, etc) and the political-revolutionary moments. London was an empire, hippy, punk, romantic, multicultural. But it always was, and still is, about the people who live there and shapes it, no matter where they come from (migration is the other recurrent topic here). Suggs (again) defines it better than anyone on the film: “The good old days? “There were no good old days. London doesn’t belong to anyone. It’s whoever’s on the go at any given moment." That's what Temple shows in "London: The Modern Babylon", and it's a fascinating lesson to be learnt.

SCORE: 7,5/10

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Sunset Strip", on entertainment street

Sunset Strip  
Beefeater In-Edit 2012, Chapter IV

Our fourth music documentary during the In-Edit Festival was the one with less expectations as, being honest, we didn't have any clue about what we were going to find. In that sense "Sunset Strip" was a nice surprise, quite fun and smooth entertainment on one of the most famous (arguably the most) streets on the planet, Sunset Strip, aka The Strip.
The documentary proposes a historical ride through the quite wild story of The Strip. From its origins, the not so glamorous road that connected Hollywood studios to a developing area that soon would become Beverly Hills in the roaring '20s, to the new Millennium. There's music, cinema stars, gangsters, hippies, drugs, hair metal, decadence, counterculture, glamour, scary parties, comedy, more drugs, and neon lights.... All is narrated in a very lightweight way, just a glimpse, a little bit of the whole, so the film can keep flowing, peppered by the comments of an impressive number of celebrities (even too many in my opinion) and people who were there (and others who weren't).

"Sunset Strip" doesn't offer any real insight or much substance. For the good and the bad. Some of the opinions are more passionate, amusing or significant than others. It's not the same hearing former mobsters talking about that policeman who made their life impossible than hearing Kelly Osbourne (what?). It's not the same hearing Lemmy or Billy Corgan than Slash (uggh). Johnny Depp (at least he used to be interesting) than Keeanu Reeves. I think you get it now. Also, some parts are way more absorbing than others. The mafia, the story of the clubs or the bloom of live music is much more engaging than the Chateu Marmont's or the comedians parts. But despite being somewhat uneven in the weight of its parts, or its unconventional mixture of footage, opinions, storytelling, live music and animations, it keeps going with fluency. It would be close to being confusing or chaotic, but believe it works because its doesn't attempt to go deeper. 

If something is made clear on the documentary, is that Sunset Strip's story is made by cycles. It's arguable if there's space for a new rebirth of the street today, despite director Hans Fjellestad tries to convince us that the new generations of artists and club owners are injecting new life to The Strip. That sort of latest minute eulogy looks forced, as the director doesn't show us the reasons behind that argument, and doesn't help the film coherency either. But I don't think "Sunset Strip" deserves to be blamed at all. It works just fine as a quite entertaining and pleasant, unpretentious carousel of stories on a very particular street.

SCORE: 6/10