February 27, 2012

Five Movies That I Rate That You May Have Missed

Let me start by saying I’m not that much of a film buff. I do watch a few movies here and there, and some of these below I may have watched some time ago, not like this week or anything! Some are fairly modern, some are not. But I highly recommend all of the following…

This is one of those claymation efforts, like Wallace and Gromit, though it’s not for kids, well, young kids anyway. Brilliantly funny, amazingly animated, and a true story. It’s narrated by Barry Humphries, who you may know better as Edna Everidge. Mary is a young girl in Melbourne, who decides, at random, to write to a stranger in the USA.

Escape from Sobibor (1987)

This is a TV movie about the Sobibor Death Camp in Nazi-occupied
Poland in WW2, with Rutger Hauer and Alan Arkin - both solid actors,. Way better than your usual made-for-TV productions, it pulls no punches about the bleakness and harsh realities of a death camp in WW2. Hardly cheerful, but very good. Unavailable on DVD I believe, but it’s downloadable, and also the whole thing is on YouTube.

Match Point (2005)

Written and directed by Woody Allen, though not a comedy, and not the kind of movie you’d typically associate with him. A dialogue driven thriller, full of twists and turns, with a great finale. In my opinion a good movie starts and ends with a good script. This is one of those movies.

Lilya 4-Ever (2002)

As bleak a movie as you will ever see, and mesmerising with it. It’s about the sex trade - not a fun topic. Set in
Estonia, and all in Russian, this gives an insight to everyday life in a poorer part of Eastern Europe, and what fate might bring if you take a wrong turn. Very, VERY grim from start to finish, but spellbinding and heart-wrenching nonetheless. Incidentally, despite the subject matter, there’s barely any nudity in this movie; having said that, it’s definitely not for the faint hearted, easily offended, or youngsters. It will stick in your head for days.

Yes that does say 1944! I saw this a few months ago as it’s listed on IMDb’s Top 250 at number 54 – i.e. very highly regarded, and rightly so. Walter is an insurance salesman, and an ‘average Joe’, who has an affair, and together they plot to kill her husband and collect the insurance. It has one of those jaw dropping plot twists in the middle which I love. A great movie, with wisecracking 1940s dialogue all the way through, which, if I’m honest, dates the movie terribly, but even that cannot detract from a masterpiece.

February 20, 2012

Suicide Lyrics Might Be Just What You Need – My Top 10 Northern Soul Dancefloor Bangers

What the world needs right now is another fucking indie guitar band right? Fucking wrong. If I hear one more wistful solo acoustic guitar intro, I swear I’m going to prison.

I also can’t abide ‘fandom’. I’m not really a fan of anyone or anything (football teams aside, which is different and relates to regional rivalries). Not because I’m above it or anything like that, I simply don’t get it. For example, I knew a girl years ago who was a huge fan of the Pet Shop Boys. She liked EVERYTHING that they did – every song, every haircut, every album cover, everything. To me, this just seems like a kind of blinkered positive prejudice. Being a fan of people, I just don’t get it. Like some of their stuff? Sure. Everything they’ve ever produced? Come on, that’s impossible.

OK, I started this update because I wanted to list my Top 10 1960s soul tracks. This might seem like hypocrisy, having seen the above – and I am, I guess, a fan of this genre – but I’m not a fan of any of the people involved, either on the scene or behind the music. I don’t feel negatively towards them either, I just like the songs, that’s all. Northern Soul suits me just fine. The records are, by and large, anonymous, even though you may see the name on the label. Who are ‘The Epitome of Sound’ or ‘The De-Lites’? We’ll probably never know. And that’s just the way I like it. Also, in regard to time – it’s static, that is, it’s nearly all 60s and 70s soul. Furthermore, in
England anyway, it was all popular long after it was made – a retro scene. Which means new music only meant newly discovered tracks, not new music per se. Liking something just because it’s new is another hang-up of mine. New does not necessarily equate to ‘better’.

What makes a good Northern Soul track, you may (not) be wondering? Well, it’s a dance genre, if you can’t dance to it, it ain’t Northern. That’s not strictly true, but we’ll go with it for now. Suicide lyrics are often a winner too. ‘My baby left me and I’m gonna throw myself under a train.’ Not an uncommon theme. Sad songs when you’re sad, right?

So without further ado, here are my current (it changes) Top ten 1960s Northern Soul sounds, in no particular order. Also, because this is a blog not a statistics log, I’m gonna tell you about each one’s personal history to me, if there is one, or about the track. Or something…

The Epitome of Sound – You Don’t Love Me

Quite possibly the finest song from the entire decade, of any genre. I first heard this when I shared a flat with a good old buddy of mine Raymie up in
Dundee. That was back in the days of cassettes, and I literally wore the tape (his!) out listening to this. Unfortunately for anyone who spends any time with me, I’m one of those people who, if I find a song I love, plays it until I’m sick of it, which is usually long after everyone else has become sick of it. This song is in many a Northern Soul fan’s top ten. And mine. The lyrics? We’ve all been there…

The De-Lites – Lover

Don’t know much about this, other than owning an original copy will set you back the price of a family car. A modern-ish discovery for me, no story – just liked it on my headphones. Love the simplicity of it. Simple. Dancefloor. Banger. I would sprint to the dancefloor if I heard this (unlikely) in some club.

Poor old Tommy. He’s wasted his whole life chasing one girl, who up and went off with someone else, then he wrote a song about it. Suicide lyrics aplenty. Strictly speaking, this is a kind of Latino 60s soul track. But hey, genre boundaries do overlap, and you’ll hear this at many a Northern Soul night. This is probably the song that I sing to myself the most. Not because I’ve cried my own life away, it’s just catchy as hell. I used to hear this song at various Soul nights and didn’t know what it was – I even used to sing it to people to try and find out. Eventually did. What a story.

Little Nicky Soul – I Wanted To tell You

She’s a bad girl, and Nicky wanted to warn you. This song is virtually perfect. The vocals, the backing singers, the melody, the ‘swing’ of it, the lush guitar overlays, everything. I’m no musician and don’t know all the terminology, but hey, this is just

Love hurts. Stings like a bee in fact. This was favourite track last year on my hollybags traipsing around Lao. Reminds me of cheap whisky, Beer Lao, jungles and girls. Well one girl in particular. 100 plays on my iTunes here, still not sick of it. Simple, spacious, and dripping with ‘it’. A stunning, gorgeous track. This is the kind of Northern Soul that those who like ‘jazz, funk and soul’ don’t get. It’s not jazzy or funky. Don’t get me started on jazz and funk, not if you wanna go home before dawn. Not a fan.

The Servicemen – I Need a Helping Hand

One day God (I’m not religious) made some backing singers, the finest in all Christendom. He said “Go forth, and find ye The Servicemen and ye shall be remembered for evermore by working class blokes from up North.” And they did. When the backing vocals kick in on this, my jaw drops and my body hair tingles. Nice xylophone intro too. Reminds me of the
Philippines 2010, where it played into my ears the whole trip. Drunk, girls, dancing, nightclubs, meeting my good friend Alex. Good times to a great song. This is probably my number one song right now. I just don’t get sick of it.

The Charades – Key To My Happiness

Short at 2 minutes and 9 seconds, but a spine-tingling electrifying blast of awesomeness. Rolling piano riffs, a ‘wall of sound’ type production full of atmosphere, and a singer who wants to repossess the key to his happiness. Interesting. Another ‘lost that girl’ song.

Clyde’s in trouble. His girl has left him, and wants to get under a train, which I’m told is not a good idea. Again, not strictly a Northern track this one, more of an early 60s R’n’B number. Thumpingly fast tempo, great singing, suicide lyrics – the winning combination. The kind of thing you’ll hear at a Mod’s do. MODS! Don’t get me started on them either. Funny little men in fancy dress who think they’re better than you.

Nice organ and brass intro, and you guessed it, suicide lyrics. Take your wistful acoustic guitar ramblings and ram them up your indie hipster ass. This has that banging tempo that you need at 3am in a roomful of sweaty blokes off their heads on…

The Vibrating Vibrations – Surprise Party for Baby

I like this. To be honest, it’s a ‘nothing special’ kinda track. The lyrics are unusual for this type of tune – a guy is organising a surprise party for his woman and is worried if she will show up. Just a nice track, and probably the most ‘Motown’ sounding track on this list.

Jazzers, funkers, hipsters, acoustic guitar philosophers, and especially Mods can kiss my sweaty balls. That’s all folks.