Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wilson By Daniel Clowes

I was in London for work on Friday so I popped into Gosh comics and picked up some nice limited edition books. One of my purchases was Wilson by Daniel Clowes.

Wilson is the first 'original' graphic novel by Clowes, 'original' in that it was not initially published in a serialised form like 'ghost world' or 'david boring'. It's well drawn and it presents the central character, Wilson, well. Wilson is a bit of a loser, opinionated but well meaning. The book follows his life over several years.

Wilson is a character sketch. It's well realised but it doesn't really change the world. You can read it in less than an hour.

The Alteration by Kingsley Amis

The Alteration is an alternative reality novel set in a world very different from our own. The story opens in 1976 in an England that is ruled by the catholic church. In this reality the Reformation never happened and the world has not developed scientificallly.

Hubert, a 10 year old boy with an excellent singing voice, is the central character. Agents of the church wish to castrate him so that his voice will not change and he will become a brilliant singer. Hubert tries to escape.

Kingsley Amis is regarded as a great author but this is the first of his books that I have read. The alternative reality of 'The Alteration' is well thought out and the plot is interesting. This book would make a great film. Worth a read. It reminded me of 'the man in high castle' by Philip K. Dick'.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Death of an unsigned band by Tim Thornton

This is the second novel by Tim Thornton and again it deals with the less glamorous side of the music industry. Most rock bands that exist are crap and fail to thrive. I know. I've been in a couple.

Thornton captures the personalities and lifestyles of musicians in unsigned bands perfectly. I cringed as I read the book and I recognised several characters.

'Death of an unsigned band' is about growing up, leaving adolescence behind and deciding to do something worthwhile with your life. That's kinda what I did when I was 21 and I decided to stop fucking about in bands and go to medical school. I liked this book.

How I escaped my certain fate by Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee is probably my favourite comedian at the moment. He thinks about what he does. He is intelligent and he doesn't treat his audience as milestone delayed children.

'How I escaped my certain fate' is his second book. It's probably about his approach to the art of comedy. He describes the development of 3 of his comedy routines that are available on DVD. He also writes about his life as he developed these routines to help put his work in context. This is not a celebratory autobiography of the type shat out regularly by Russell Brand et al. I can imagine people being interested in this book in 20 years. Smart people, not wanks.

Worth a read.

Dum Dum Girls and MGMT live at the Glasgow Barrowlands

I was probably more interested in Dum Dum Girls when I bought the tickets to this show a few months ago. A very sensible lady suggested that I should listen to their album and it has found a place in my heart. Dum Dum Girls play a sort of fuzzy punk pop with hints of the Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Their record is very good indeed.

Live they managed to pull it off although they don't have the dreamy-fuzz polish of the album. The vocal harmonies were great and the band were tight. The lead singers voice held for most of the set but she did sound like she had a sore throat towards the end of it. My misogynist mate Chris said that they looked good too.

The average age of the crowd was about 15 or 16 meaning that I could probably be everyones dad. There was also a bunch of spectacularly drunk women dancing energetically in front of us. One of them fell into me and tried to grab my junk to steady herself on the way down. Thankfully my junk was not injured but it was a close call. As a doctor I would like to advise the general public of Glasgow to use alcohol responsibly because grabbing the junk of a stranger may cause offence in the wrong social situation.

MGMT? The big hits sounded great. Some of the quieter psychedelic stuff was nice and there was a good krautrock bit. The band looked like they were floating around Mars. The keyboard player (who looked a bit like Jesus) seemed to be trapped in a k-hole.

Dum Dum Girls - A

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Papal visit to UK

I am not a religious person. I have no religious beliefs. I'm a scientist. I don't really mind what other people believe as long as their beliefs do not hurt other people.

I have found much of what the Pope has said on his recent visit to the UK to be offensive. His preaching against the use of condoms in the devloping world is morally indefensible and a great cause of human misery. His tacit protection of paedophile priests is unpleasant and possibly criminal. His opinion that 'aggessive' atheism and secularism equates to nazism is misguided and silly. The statement made by his cardinal which suggested that Britain was a 'third world country' because of 'multiculturalism' had racist undertones.

The pope is a stupid, blinkered old man and I hope that multi-cultural, secular Britain continues to ignore him.

Cyrus - film review

A magazine described Cyrus as a 'mumblecore' film and that is an apt description. Cyrus had been advertised as a knock-about comedy instead of as an art-house influenced film. The Glaswiegan Friday night cinema audience were clearly disappointed by what they got for their 8 pounds and 7 young Asian guys walked out in a bad mood in the middle of the film.

Cyrus is OK but some of it is uncomfortable viewing. The plot revolves around a man who meets a woman at a party and starts a relationship with her. Problems develop when he meets her 22 year old Cyrus. At times Cyrus seems to have an almost incestual relationship with his mother and most of the film is played very straight. The characters and relationships are plausible.

Good film but not a feel-good film.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The expendables - film review

I ended up watching the expendables last week because the a-team was sold out. I have been told that the a-team isn't worth seeing. I was pleasantly suprised by the expendables as it is probably one of the funniest films I have seen in years. I'm not sure that it is meant to be a comedy.

The expendables doesn't really have a story. The film collects every stupid action movie hero you can think of, locks them in a room the does not obey the laws of physics, and lets them do whatever they want to do. Shit explodes, punks get beat down, death is dealt.

I pissed myself for 90 minutes. See it!

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World - film review

I've read about half of the Scott Pilgrim comic book series. The comics are quirky and fun but they don't always manage to completely hold my interest. The film was a more appealing concept with director Edgar Wright of 'Shaun of the dead' fame and a soundtrack featuring Beck and Broken Social Scene among others. A starring role for rent-a-nerd actor Michael Cera helped too.

The film is visually stunning, filled with comic book caption boxes and video game references. The music scenes work well. The opening 15 minutes felt a bit stilted but I really got into the story once I habituated myself to the narrative style.

Arty, funny and interesting.

Mogwai live at Stereo, Glasgow

I find it difficult to relate to Mogwai in an objective manner as one of my friends is in the band. They do not have the mystique of Slint, Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine. They are good guys who have done well for themselves. They deserve to do well for a million reasons.

The secret show that I saw on Sunday night in Stereo underlined how well they have done. They had decided to play a charity show as a break from studio sessions for their next album. The money will be split between a cancer charity and Pakistan disaster relief.

Mogwai are now as good a live band as any of my favourites. I last saw them as they headlined the Glasgow Barrowlands approximately 10 years ago and the difference is amazing. Mogwai are the best live band that I have seen in Stereo. They played a fairly diverse setlist including Helicon part 1, Mogwai Fear Satan and My Father, My King. The sound was crystal clear. The energy from the stage was electric.

For me to admit that Mogwai are any good at all means that they are probably 4 or 5 times better than anyone else. See them if you can.