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Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Other Side of the Mirror", the birth of Bob Dylan's myth

The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival 
In-Edit Beefeater Festival 2011, chapter I

Our first film in this long weekend devoted to the 9th edition of the Barcelona International Music Documentary Film Festival was focused on Bob Dylan. Theoretically, the documentary was not just another one to add to the long list of works on him, but included one of the most controversial and legendary performances ever, while it chronicles Dylan's music evolution in the three successive years he appeared at Newport Folk Festival, from 1963 to 1965. 

And that's exactly what it is. A collection of full-length performances (17 songs overall) by Dylan at Newport, brilliantly filmed by director Murray Lerner (the film was broadcasted by BBC Four in 2007). So if you are looking for early live shows of Dylan, playing some of his more famous tunes "The Other Side of the Mirror" is an excellent choice. But if you are looking for an insight documentary on the relation between the Newport Festival and Dylan, you are almost wasting your time.

I say almost because we have glimpses of something more on the film, little additions that suggest there's going to be a crescendo in the documentary. Between songs, in 1963 we have a newcomer, shy Dylan that has Joan Baez as his godmother at Newport, announcing to the audience the relevance of who are they going to listen/see. Only one year after, 1964, Lerner let us, briefly, in a couple of  bursts, see how Dylan's dimension has grown enormously, being the indisputable "king" of the Festival. Crowds loves him and wants more songs, to the point of not allowing other artists to play. We also have a couple (literally) of brief chats with the audience about the importance of folk music and Dylan's relevance. I admit I was engaged by the idea everything was going to "explode" in 1965.

Because that's the year when Dylan went electric at Newport, a mythical performance that, of course, I wanted to see. But what Lerner offers is just two songs of that set, and the acoustic final comeback. Yes, we can hear Dylan received a mixed response from the crowd, but there's zero interaction with the audience, no comments from anyone, just an (in my opinion) abrupt end. 

Maybe the problem has to do more with the advertisement/information booklet of the In-Edit Festival that marketed the documentary as a must-see to understand Dylan's evolution, quoting them, "as much a sculptural moment as an involuntary criminal trial. It must be seen at all costs". Sorry but, to me, "The Other Side of the Mirror" is not that film. For Dylan fans, as myself, is a very well filmed performance documentary (one that would easily receive an excellent rating), but if you are looking for more, as I was, it will disappoint you. I recommend you to skip this one and watch Lerner's Festival! instead, a documentary from 1967 that shares some footage with this but offers a much more vivid picture of the Newport Festival, while it also includes Dylan's controversial set from 1965.

SCORE: 5/10

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Discoverer 26: new indie findings

New bands for you!

Of Monsters and Men. Iceland finest! They began in 2010, when Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir turned her solo project into a quartet band, winning last year’s edition of Músiktilraunir, Iceland “battle of the bands” competition (praise judges & audience for their good taste). Encouraged by their triumph, they added two more members to the line-up, creating a bigger, expansive folk-pop sound. The contagious, rich and vital sound you'll enjoy in their debut album "My Head Is An Animal", released this September. Ómissandi! (indispensable).
Of Monsters And Men - 'Little Talks'

The Blanche Hudson Weekend. Change of style. Hailing from Leeds, UK, featuring Darren and Caroline from the ashes of the Manhattan Love Suicides, they started in 2009 as a one-record idea with several guests helping on recording. But after a 7" single and first live shows, two more singles and a compilation, "Reverence, Severance and Spite", followed in 2010. And this October they released what's considered their debut album, "You Always Loved Violence". Glorious noisy twee-pop, recalling Talulah Gosh or The Primitives. Addictive!
The Blanche Hudson Weekend - The Bitterest Clash
The Blanche Hudson Weekend - Let Me Go
The Blanche Hudson Weekend - Noise and Fury

The Soft City. After reading the review of their self-titled 2010 debut record, on the great blog 360º de Separación, I had to check if what they say was true. The Soft City are a super-indie group created by Phil Sutton (Comet Gain, Kicker) in 2007. After an EP, Sutton was joined by Jason Corace (A Boy Named Thor), Kyle Forester (Ladybug Transistor, Crystal Stilts), and Dora Lubin's amazing voice, indeed like a young Natalie Merchant. Imagine early Maniacs, Go Betweens, Belle & Sebastian, girl and jangle greatest groups (I know, a dream come true). They have a new EP, "Four Stories", out now, so more gems to hear!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Alela Diane, folk and Americana greatness in Barcelona

Alela Diane at Apolo, Barcelona.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Alela Diane & Wild Divine. La [2] de Apolo, Barcelona, October 27th

As promised
, here's the review of a long awaited concert. The first time (won't be the last) with Alela Diane live, to me Alela one of the greatest folk authors thanks to the amazing "To Be Still". But she came to Barcelona to present her last effort. "Alela Diane & Wild Divine", where there's a clear movement into the Americana, country-rock territory. And although, in my (initial) opinion, with this album, some of her previous uniqueness is gone, on stage she immediately proved the "new" Alela Diane has plenty to offer.

Alela in action. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Backed by a permanent band now, a very familiar affair, as it includes her husband Tom Bevitori and father Tom Menig on guitars and her friends on bass and drums, the first thing that impacts is how cohesive and full the music sounds. The group, despite their competence, and in particular the brilliance of Menig (what a great outro on "Long Way Down"), leaves a lot of room to Alela to shine while sounding robust and more dynamic.

More Alela on stage.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
That, combined with a Sala [2] de Apolo that finally did justice to the artist performing with a good sound, and of course Alela's extraordinary, earthy but soulful voice, plus songs like the chosen to start her gig are enough to knock you down: “Of Many Colors”, the gorgeous "Dry Grass & Shadows", "Elijah" and mesmerizing "White As Diamonds". If the concert had ended here, the ticket would have been totally worth it already. What a start!

Luckily, more was coming. The lovely rescues of "Tired Feet" and "The Rifle" from her debut album "The Pirate’s Gospel" and the gentle "The Wind" and "Tatted Lace" marked the central section of the gig, glowing along with his father.

"Rose & Thorn", a promising new tune, continued the night on its high note before entering the last section. Backed again with the full band, Alela and co. allowed themselves to joke with the audience between tunes where guitars got more prominent, amplifying its power if we compare them with the album (hand-clapping included on "Heartless Highway") . After hearing the songs live, now I can say I'm also converted to Alela's new incarnation.

The setlist of a great night. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
After "Suzanne", the group left the stage, but soon Alela reappeared, alone, to overblown the audience with "Oh My Mama", and followed again by her father, end the concert with "Lady Divine". A night of folk and American greatness. A night with the great Alela Diane and her very welcomed company.

Bloodbuzzed loves Nat Johnson and the Figureheads!

A quick post to thank the lovely Nat Johnson and her band. A couple of days ago I received a signed copy of "Roman Radio", their first album. This was part of their pledge proposal (you can still help here, hurry up!) to fund their forthcoming album, "I'm Across, I'm Asshore", out in February 2012 on the also lovely Thee SPC. Needless to say I'm really dying to hear the new album.

But besides the signatures, with the record there was a little note included (on the back of  their "What the Heart Pours Into" EP frontcover), the one you can see at your right... What can I say?

Thanks Nat! Bloodbuzzed loves you! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Alela Diane live tonight in Barcelona!

Sometimes the title, and the artist of course, speaks for itself and there's no need to add anything else. The great Alela Diane at La [2] de Apolo tonight! Not even the worst storm could stop me from going to her concert. Review coming very soon!! Have a great night!

"The Devil and Daniel Johnston", artist, sick man, myth

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Love when a film leaves you wondering and asking questions yourself. If these questions are about music, its even better. "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" is that sort of movie.

The story of Daniel Johnston is fascinating. "Thanks" to his "special" behaviour, filming and taping everything, we witness his entire and incredible life. What we see is intriguing and moving. In that sense the documentary is not about a musician, but about someone who suffers, and tries to deal with his manic depression/bipolar disorder. Daniel's life captivates the viewer because the mixture between his artistic creativity and his madness. Moments of astonishing craziness (the NY affair, the plane, seeing the Devil everywhere) followed by bits of his music is a combination that speaks and impacts for itself.

But as the film develops it reveals how difficult it is to separate the musician from the seriously ill person. Johnston's is not, like many artists in history, an eccentric or a slightly weird outsider. He's a fragile and highly sensitive human being with a really and very serious mental problem, that brings him to moments of profound depression, delirium and rage accesses, affecting the people that surrounds him, parents (a special note to them, as they have a couple of scenes where emotion just reduce them to tears), family, friends (including his quite peculiar manager), musicians, etc. The film doesn't hide any bit of him acting oddly, or just falling apart, going in and out of mental hospitals while he tries to keep his prolific work. But his mental condition permeates (it couldn't be any other way) everything he creates. And that brings me to a double question.

So while the portrayal of his life is fascinating and touching, I have some concerns/doubts about the musician itself. I know about Daniel's cult music status, and that his songs have been covered by hundreds of artists, but after seeing the film, I wonder to which extent that fame and prestige has to do with his complex, troubled character, and not just his music talents. It's obvious director Jeff Feuerzeig loves Johnston work, both music and drawings. But in my opinion, the film doesn't care much about we, the ones that don't know a lot about Daniel, or that simply are not their fans.  

Because for the "regular" viewer, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" offers a strange musician portrayal. About someone tortured inside that creates music... and becomes a star... without knowing the reasons why. Feuerzeig explains us his music career with brush strokes, so for me at least is a bit hard to believe how Daniel gets his shot at MTV, how he is capable of working with Jad Fair and Sonic Youth, or how he manages to gather 3.000 people in an auditorium after a forced hiatus because his illness. Moreover, what we see in that gig is someone singing really out of tune, suffering on stage and offering songs that cannot we qualified as extraordinary (I'm not saying his music is bad by no means, I'm just saying that what we see/hear at the documentary doesn't justify his cult status). So, what's up with their fans? They were all converted just because Kurt Cobain wore a shirt of him for a while? Why we don't have more interviews and thoughts of fans about his music, and why we don't get more information about how their career evolved and it is considered? It left me wondering the same sort of questions that "Exit Through the Gift Shop" did. Who decides what's art, in this case with music, who elevated Johnston's to a myth category?

It is a complex movie about an equally complex person, so it's kind of logical the review has to be a bit "tricky" too. As a film about a human being with serious issues that tries to deal with them while offers the world his talents, this movie is outstanding and absorbing. But as a music portray, to me, its incomplete or just for die-hard fans. Having said that, is a must-see oddity

SCORE: 7/10

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The Wave", fascism is just around the corner

The Wave (Die Welle, German original title)

It's not easy to find films with a sociological perspective, or with the aim of being thoughtful, even getting political, without the usual fault of being too discursive or seriously slow. In that sense, "The Wave" is refreshing, being seriously profound while at the same time is vibrant and really absorbing. And the fact the whole idea is based on a real "experiment" makes the movie even more attractive (also scary).

The whole premise is based on the aim of giving a very special class, miles away from the usual lectures on an historical/political time or concept, that Reiner Wenger (powerfully performed by Jürgen Vogel), an unorthodox but committed German high school teacher has to give his students. The subject? Autocracy.

Director Dennis Gansel starts the fire in a very credible way. The kids are bored and don't want to hear about Nazism again. They argue that "it is impossible to fall into something like that again" to justify their demand to change the development of the class. Then Reiner proposes them a simple yet unusual experiment to prove their students they are so wrong. What he intends is to show the students the virtues, idiosyncrasy and practices associated to an autocracy. And the kids follow him blindly and become quickly obsessed by the experiment, transforming the classroom into a social entity with its own life, structure and codes. "The Wave" is born.

There's something really powerful and challenging on how "The Wave" is constructed. The film takes its time to focus the story in some students, reflecting how different is the reaction in front this sort of proposal depending on the student character and his/her social background, but also how are the social dynamics of a class (leaders, outsiders) and how the roles are modified or aggravated by the experiment. The elements of an autocratic regime are also displayed: a name, an image, a gesture, a uniform... Kids seems to get into it as if they were playing some funny game, but soon they are trapped by its rewards: a sense of community, protection, belonging. Wenger, the teacher, also gets enthusiastic with the level of interest his students are showing, being unaware of the influence he is having on them.

But very quickly, the game spins awfully. It gets out of control as "The Wave", as every authoritarian regime or religion does, defines itself as "us" against the "others". Exclusivity and exclusion appear, and the ones that criticise the group are rejected. The threat of violence is also there.

Despite how appealing the movie is, that fast developing into a "little-scale" fascist unit would be my only complaint about the film. The monster is created too fast to being entirely credible. It is hard to assume such a reaction could happen with this sceptical youth, which, as showed in the film, is also quite smart. The activity Reiner proposes to his pupils is quite innocent to turn into a night of vandalism the same day. One could argue they are just a few students acting like that. True. But then it gets hard to believe they can influence a whole classroom so dramatically when we also see not everyone is buying "The Wave".  

Anyway, despite my doubts in the development of the story, this film should be overtly praised. Because it deals with a very delicate topic with dynamism, tension and an engaging interest. Because it shows how attractive and engaging this system could be, and as you keep watching, it is hard not to understand the reasons why students like it. And because it shows how easily society could fall into fascism. Now if I make  the simple exercise of watching the national (and international) news, or reading/hearing the political slogans of some political parties in my country (yes, I'm referring to PP, CiU and obviously to minor fascist parties like Plataforma per Catalunya), the European extreme right or the American Tea Party, its clear to see how the hatred speech, the "us" against "them" is so popular again. Fascism is just around the corner.

SCORE: 7,25/10

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Discoverer 25: new indie findings

Cinema Red and Blue. Always have the same feeling with Comet Gain. No matter tone or lyrics, its always played with a joyful, passionate rawness, so it's almost mathematic: I fall for their music once and again. So when I discovered Dave Feick and co. embarked themselves in a new adventure, a collaboration with members of Crystal Stilts with guest appearances of Gary Olson from The Ladybug Transistor, I knew I would love it too. The eponymous record, released in November of 2010 is followed by "Butterbean Crypt EP", out next week. As great as Comet Gain. Enough said. 
Cinema Red and Blue - Same Mistakes
Cinema Red And Blue - Walkin' To The Cemetery

To Kill a King. A Shakespearean name for this five-piece Brit band leaded by intriguing songwriter Ralph Pellymounter, who after several attempts (started his musical career in 2004 solo), in early 2010 finally ensembled the current band's line-up, releasing heir first single "Fictional State", which is now followed by "My Crooked Saint" EP. A powerful and diverse blend between pop-rock and folk, that sometimes evoke a more restrained Arcade Fire, and others the straightness and euphoric side of Mumford And Sons' tunes. Keep and eye on them.
To Kill A King - "Bloody Shirt"
To Kill a King - "Wrecking Crew" (Acoustic Version)
To Kill a King - "Cold Skin"

2:54. Behind this curious name (their favourite moment in a Melvins song), you'll find sisters Hannah and Colette Thurlow. Hailing from London, they emerged past May with their song "Creeping". A couple of tunes followed soon, and after signing with Fiction Records, they now offer their first release, "Scarlet" EP. Many names come to mind when listening, from Garbage (that sensual voice recalls Shirley Manson's) to Warpaint or Mazzy Star. A cinematic and atmospheric affair, where guitars stride relentlessly and cymbals seems to splash, like waves, against imaginary rocks.
2:54 - Scarlet
Cold Front 7"

Friday, October 21, 2011

Primavera Sound Festival 2012: my wish list

Three days ago, I made my 20 bands' sweepstake for Primavera Sound Festival 2012. Now I'm back with another category: the petitions. Hoping the line-up will shape into something similar to this (a mix of the two posts), the majority of the 20 bands listed could be "possible" (meaning releasing new music and/or touring in 2012) but a few are personal favourites that will be really hard to "recruit" for Barcelona. Still, dreaming is free...

Be Like Pablo. Among the most exciting bands I discovered this year, they would offer an amazing gig for sure.
Beth OrtonDon't know if she's planning her (real) comeback finally next year. But it has been so long. The world (and myself) needs Beth's voice!
Cat Power. Performing "You Are Free"- Not a real fan of her, except this superb album.
Decemberists, TheWhat can I say? They would me an absolute must-see for me. I got very disappointed this year as they didn't toured Spain. Hope they do. 
Doves, The. Know they're on hiatus, but is one of the bands I must see before it's too late.
Eels. I'm getting more and more addicted to Mr. E's music recently. The time has come for me to see such a unique artist.
Electrelane. Played some summer festivals this year, so it is too much to ask for more?
Hermit Crabs, The. 4 years have passed since they released the adorable "Saw you Dancing". That's not in order. I need more songs. If not possible, Baffin Island (as The Very Most should be in Barcelona too) would be a wonderful option too.
Hi-Life Companion, The. I wroted this before. "Say Yes", their only album, is outstanding, so I would love to see it played live. Plus, if you check their news, they are back in studio, so if they have more songs to show...
Innocence Mission, The. I must hear Karen Peris live at least once before dying.
Lambchop. Same case as Eels, I would love to see Kurt Wagner live. Full band please.
Motorama. Among the so-called post-punk revivalists the Russians are the best.
Mynabirds, The. Auditorium + Laura Burnheim + her gorgeous music= perfect mix!
Nat Johnson and the Figureheads. They just announced the name of their new album, "I'm Across, I'm Ashore" that will be out on February 2012. There's no excuse for one of the greatest indie-pop talents to finally land in Barcelona.
Phoenix. Skipped Barcelona with the "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" tour, which was a shame. Expecting new music next year, and a headlining presence at PS too.
School, The. They toured Spain but not Barcelona! An injustice to be solved in 2012.
Summer Fiction. Can you imagine Bill Ricchini and co. playing at one of the PS stages located in front of the sea? I do, and would be amazing.
Trespassers William. They should play right before or after Mazzy Star (I bet they will be at Primavera Sound). What a dreamy night would be!
Vaccines, The. They felt from the line-up last year, but seems they will have new music for 2012 (Strokes producing?). Besides, I'll go with someone that would love their gig.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Like Colin Meloy's band, this is a pending and unmissable concert.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Somewhere", Sofia Coppola's take on fame


Before I start the review: I love Sofia Coppola. She is responsible of my favourite movie, "Lost In Translation". I can't praise enough her talents: an incredible sensitivity for capturing human nature, an unbeatable ability to transmit feelings like fragility, loneliness and despair without making a drama, and unparalleled subtlety, and an amazing visual display, added to a great music taste. She's one of my favourite directors.

Having said that, "Somewhere" is a disappointment. Sofia's visual and sensitive touch is still present, and her take on Hollywood's fame is original and personal. But the film is, at times, barely death, and seriously cold. It is not about the quiet, lengthy scenes or the lack of dialogue. It's about the essence of the movie and its incapacity of connecting with the spectator.

If I compare with Sofia's previous trilogy there's evidently something missing here. I easily empathized with the Lisbon's sisters and the boys who idealised them. Needless to say, I truly fell in love with Bob Harris and Charlotte isolation, loneliness and expectations story, being compelled with a movie that was as visually precious and suggestive as powerfully human. Sofia's talent made me even felt moved by a queen's story, as behind all Versalles paraphernalia there was a trapped human being, a teenager willing to live. But in "Somewhere" there's nothing of that.

Johnny Marco (convincing Stephen Dorff) is a famous actor that lives the real "dreamed celebrity life" (sex, parties, adoration)... without really knowing if that what he wants. "Somewhere" is realistic in portraying the disconnection from the "real world" such a person might suffer, and I guess is also right in showing how he wanders in his meaningless life...but you don't really care. I mean, I cannot "buy" the sort of "celebrity despair" Marco's face, because I don't have any information telling me he didn't have the chance of doing something different, or that he is not free in changing his lifestyle if he feels that's what he wants. I'm very sorry to say that, in my opinion, "Somewhere" has a serious issue in what regards to storytelling, which is absolutely essential when you are showing an inner evolution of a "character in transition". 

There's no balance between scenes, and I couldn't say there's a real character study or human interaction except when Cleo (Marco's 11 years old daughter, brilliantly performed by Elle Fanning) and Dorff are on screen. Sofia Coppola, probably on purpose, constructs the film in a scene-after-scene accumulation basis. There are two moments (that won't spoil) where it seems a climax might be arriving, but the information or the emotion is lacking to go further. That leaves you wondering if you are not getting the point of the movie, once it abruptly ends, or there's nothing to understand about, and if there has been a real process on Dorff's character.

"Somewhere" is interesting (loved the inside cinema scenes), somewhat attractive, but ultimately frustrating and, sadly, a bit insipid.

SCORE: 5,75/10

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Primavera Sound Festival 2012: the indie sweepstake

Got the tickets for Primavera Sound Festival 2012 a couple of weeks ago, and rumours about bands that would be the first names for the line-up should start spreading the blogosphere soon. On the PS forum there's a classic tradition that has already begun. The line-up sweepstake: 20 groups, in alphabetical order, wins who gets more bands confirmed for the Festival. These are mine, not really with the will of winning, but with the hope the majority of them (and many more) will really be in Barcelona next year!

Ambience Affair, The
Army Navy
Be Forest
Brown Recluse
Dum Dum Girls
I Break Horses
Jeff Mangum
Let's Buy Happiness
Mazzy Star 
Moth & The Mirror, The
Shins, The
Stone Roses, The
Summer Camp
Veronica Falls
Very Most, The (pleaseeeeeee)
Wake the President

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Veronica Falls", a debut fated to indie-pop heavens

Veronica Falls

Loved their firsts songs, adored "Bad Feeling" and "Come On Over", and enjoyed their performance at FIB Festival this summer. Anticipation for their album was huge. Now "Veronica Falls" is here and (for once) all expectations have been fulfilled.

The record is almost flawless, but what's more important, it is ridiculously addictive, vital and, despite all its dark imaginery (these lyrics), joyful. Twee, jangle-pop, C-86 revivalism, sixties devoted sound... I'll leave the comparisons to you and the critics. I don't want to ruin my listening with the "influences game", because I believe "Veronica Falls" is an album to enjoy and embrace unabashedly.

I had the fear a LP could be the sad demonstration the British were another singles band. And although 1/4 of the record was already heard (the two songs mentioned in the first paragraph plus oldies "Found Love in a Graveyard" and "Beachy Head"), that shadow disappears very quickly. "Veronica Falls" works as a cohesive and uplifting whole.

"Found Love in a Graveyard", amplified, with a more intrincated guitar work and resounding drums, and "Right Side of My Brain", with its incredible chorus and foot-stomping riffs, are unbeatable openers. Immediacy and catchiness, mixed with a somber twist. What's not to love? You will find yourself asking for more. And it comes instantly, in the form of an obscure, Gothic horror film that turns, in a slow-burning crescendo, into a gorgeous indie-pop burst. That's "The Fountain". What a powerful starting trio.

And without allowing you a single second to catch your breath, "Misery" appears, a pop gem where the dialogue/dueling between the boy/girl harmonies reaches heaven, that is topped by a couple of equally wonderful and rewarding tunes: the disarming and upbeat melody of "Bad Feeling" and The Pixies go straightforwardly pop that is the gentle, more paused, "Stephen". You'll be hopelessly in love with the band by now.

The second half of the album opens with another edgier, reverb-drenched one. "Beachy Head" sounds reinvigorated, almost surf-punk mixed with tortured lyrics. It is followed by "All Eyes On You", a poppier affair, that needs a while to knock you out, until the pause previous to the final chorus conquers you. The easy but supercute "The Box", with its irresistible harmonies, ends this round of tunes with a smile.

Because Veronica Falls reserves some of their best for the last trio of songs. "Wedding Day" puzzles you. Rockier and direct. So simple yet so infectious. One word? A classic. Next comes the more atmospheric, laid back (I wouldn't say ballad though) "Veronica Falls", where the band delivers a different pop approach, more suggestive. It works marvellously. And fits so right before "Come On Over", a slow burning number that wakes up into a raucous stampede of drumming and shimmering guitars. As the storm fades gracefully, you can't help but run for another spin of the record. 

What a fantastic debut album. Look for them among the best records of 2011.

SCORE: 8,25/10

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"The Russian Front", do we need diplomats?

The Russian Front (Le Front Russe, French original title)
Jean-Claude Lalumière

Cutting answer: NO. Or at least we don't need anyone who resembles any of the characters of this book. Because of my job, I have the occasion of meeting/knowing a considerable amount of people from that "world", and I have to say that, sadly, reality doesn't get very far from this. In my opinion, is a useless profession.

But "The Russian Front" doesn't have serious pretensions or aims to denounce the parasitism of diplomacy. Far from it. Author Lalumière only wants to create a lightweight entertainment based on his own experiences. I guess publishers decided to sell the book as a satire without reading it, 'cause you won't find many laughs. Exceptions aside, involving a pigeon or Lalumiere's boss, the book is not funny at all. Which, by itself, doesn't mean to be bad.

The problem is that the scenes of French bureaucracy narrated in first person are going nowhere, lost in a confused tone and a poor development of an argument that had a lot of potential. "The Russian Front"  fails in its goal to provoke smiles but when the character personal situation and its job starts to offer a darker more interesting side, you realize Lalumière won't go further than sketching things. And then, the book is over.

In particular, it is really frustrating to read the weak development of his character/persona, when he is the gravitational force that moves the book. This is not Woody Allen exaggerating tics about his family to make hilarious jokes, or its not a "rather not" Bartleby located into the diplomatic world. This should have been a person with some "issues": a dreamy misconception about what diplomacy is (so real that hurts, I have known so many students/aspiring diplomats who thinks the same) mixed with a notorious ego trapped into a pusillanimous character. The cocktail had a tremendous potential. But we won't see it.

"The Russian Front" is an ok novel to pass the time, not specially funny, and safe when it seemed it could offer a more attractive insight. Not much to highlight, in my opinion.

SCORE: 4,75/10

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tribute to R.E.M. (I): a playlist of their best songs

I already told you, R.E.M. posts were just a matter of time. So here you have the first one: a playlist with their 31 best songs (as many as years their unbeatable career has had), in my opinion, of course. The order is chronological, without any intention of ranking them (something that will come soon). Hope you enjoy. Music doesn't get better than this.
  1. Gardening at Night
  2. Sitting Still 
  3. Shaking Through
  4. Maps and Legends
  5. Driver 8
  6. These Days
  7. Fall On Me
  8. Cuyahoga
  9. Welcome to the Occupation
  10. Disturbance At the Heron House
  11. You Are the Everything
  12. Texarkana
  13. Country Feedback
  14. Everybody Hurts
  15. Man On the Moon
  16. Nightswimming
  17. Find the River
  18. Photograph with Natalie Merchant
  19. What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
  20. Strange Currencies
  21. Ebow the Letter
  22. Electrolite
  23. Walk Unafraid
  24. The Great Beyond
  25. Imitation of Life
  26. Bad Day
  27. Leaving New York
  28. Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars) Live at the Olympia version
  29. Überlin
  30. Oh My Heart
  31. It Happened Today

"Super", the end of superheroes as we know them...


...and I feel so-so. Excuse me for that R.E.M. introduction, but I thought it was quite pertinent considering how peculiar is this film. Apocalyptic, seriously extreme... and frustrating.

As the amount of films on superheroes seems to never end, there's a tendency to show a different, more realistic approach. "Kick-Ass" or "Defendor" would be two very interesting examples of that tendency. Well, let's say "Super" goes one (or ten) steps beyond. This film is the most accurate portrayal of who would be a "real" superhero: an insane person. There are no superpowers here, or a fortune to create the most sophisticated weapons to prosecute crime. Instead, we have a lunatic with delirium going crazy and believing he is right to do what he does, battling criminals with his unorthodox methods.

In that sense, "Super" is brilliant. Crimson Bolt (Rainn Wilson) behaviour is erratic, demented and brutal. His motivations are a mix between his personal frustrations and a sort of religious visions. Can you imagine a president who ends his messages with God Bless You or by the Grace of God, even if he is declaring a war? I do. I bet that sounds familiar to you too. Well, our hero is that sort of lunatic. He believes he has a divine mandate to do it.

Director James Gunn is brave enough to take that unexplored path, and has no doubt on showing how violent and yes, ridicule, is all this "superhero" thing. You will laugh about what seems to be a mockery on the usual topics that surround the "superhero world": costumes, weapons, speech, the secrecy of identity, etc. But that fun part is mixed with the feeling our supposed hero does what he does and makes that sort of mistakes because he is not probably doing ok, right in his head, becoming dangerous. Extremely dangerous. Hero or psycho? That full circle idea is really stimulating.

The problem then is which side do you want to take, and my general impression is that Gunn takes all the wrong choices. As we approach the climax, craziness goes further, with the apparition of Boltie (Ellen Page, who plays her role perfectly, mixing vitality with an encouraging yet demented and violent attitude) being a major factor. It would have been the ideal moment to forget about making "fun" and become an ultra-realistic, even disgusting movie on violence and the weakness of the concept of a supposed "moral greater good". But the director keeps mixing both tones, and the result is confusing, to say the least.

The intriguing possibilities of characters (supposed to be heroic but acting as the worse kind of monsters) are replaced by scenes close to gore, and unbelievable inconsistencies blowing the tone of the film. We cannot switch how do we take the film, extremely serious or extremely funny, from a scene to another. And I'm very sorry to say that, but the end of "Super" is simply unacceptable. I can easily imagine four-five different endings that could save the film from that profoundly stupid, and seriously irresponsible end. Remember that silly president that decided to occupy a country because he thought he had to? Well, let's forgive him. He is responsible of "only" 30.000 innocent deaths, so it's not a big deal, right? NO WAY. 

An attractive, but "Super-failed" opportunity.

SCORE: 5,5/10

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Discoverer 24: new indie findings

Three great new bands for your this Sunday, enjoy!

Big Deal. Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe. Remember the names of this Brit couple as they are destined to do great things. They started only a year ago but the fuzz around them is growing steadily. And with a reason. "Lights Out" their debut album out now, is a wonderful blend of acoustic guitars with a rockier, almost grunge background sometimes, and their two voices intertwined. It might sound simple on surface, but their tales about  insecurity, nostalgia, love and relationships, are warm and enduring. You will find yourself singing alone one of its enchanting choruses.
Big Deal - Chair by Big Deal
Homework by Big Deal
13 by Big Deal

Cut City. More post-punk. If past week was Human Tetris, this time we go (back) to Gothenburg, Sweden, to introduce you this excellent four-piece group. Active since 2005, the band released two EPs, "Cut City" and "Narcissus Can Wait", and a debut LP, "Exit Decades" in 2007, that was mistaken for Interpol's "Our Love To Admire". They are back this year with their new album "Where’s The Harm In Dreams Disarmed". You might guess how they sound, somber post-punk, that evolves to shoegaze and hints of ambient, with space for a icy guitar riff. But you shouldn't miss it. Stunning.

Wake the President. Checking eardrums music always pays its dividends. This time after watching "She Fell Into My Arms", the new video of this Glaswegian band. Addictive as hell, I ran for more tunes, and what an amazing band I've found! Their debut album, "You Can’t Change That Boy", released in 2009, is an indiepop goldmine, a record that echoes the best of Orange Juice, Belle and Sebastian or the Go-Betweens. "Zumutung!", their second LP out now is as enjoyable as the first, less immediate but equally rewarding, with hints of post-rock added to the palette of this jangly melodists.
She Fell into my Arms by Wake the President
Elaine (1st 7" single from the new album) by Wake the President
02 Professor by Wake the President