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Wednesday, 17 February 2010


So, whilst trying to publish my last post, I was told by Blogger that you can't use the symbols '!' or '.' in Labels (I wanted to tag the phrase "Damn you Salazaar!"). As you know, I do the occasional post on music - What the hell am I supposed to do if I'm reviewing an R.E.M album?

Damn you, Salazaar!

EDIT: Just thought I'd test it, and what do you know? R.E.M works! Guess it must just be when they're used at the end of the word. Wow, so this post is kind of pointless now, huh?

Also, I just tried to find the clip of John C. Reilly from Chicago where h says "Hope I didn't take up too much of your time" on YouTube, thinking that would be an appropriate way to end such a meaningless post, and not only did that clip not come up, but instead I got "John C. Reilly Shares his Gay Halloween Story".


It's just one of those nights...

Having spent most of the night playing a copy of the 1994 game "Theme Park" that I downloaded yesterday (reliving my childhood years...), I decided to visit ICANHASCHEEZBURGER to look at some amusing images before I retired.

Having now seen so many lolcats that I am no longer amused that greatly by the concept, I decided to follow a link to one of their partner sites, and see what that did for me.

The site I wound up on is called "Autocomplete Me", and shows some of the funny search results that come up when you type certain phrases into google.

Looking at these, I was not only entertained, but also learned some very informative information (EDIT: you can tell I'm tired, I'm proof-reading right now, and I just thought "informative information. WHAT?". Which is why, for your reading pleasure, I am leaving it in). For example: I thought I was the only person who said "Damn you, Salazaar!" when my laptop goes wrong - turns out there's 77,000 search reslts for 'Damn you Salazaar' if you type it into google - that's gotta be on a par with "All your base are belong to us"!

EDIT: and why the fuck, when I type in "all your base are belong to us" on YouTube does it come up with "Nirvana: All Your Base Are Belong To Us"? If Kurt knew people were doing this sort of thing to his music, he'd shoot himself in the head! ...again! But, I digress...

2nd EDIT: Then again, it's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", so Kurt would probably be glad someone was ruining it - man, he hated that song.

But what forced me to come on this Blog, and type about my experience, was a certain image that I came across on the site, a couple of pages in. Here it is:

Now, you may have laughed at that, but even if you did, you're probably wondering why it's so hilarious I would write about it. (If you're not wondering, I'm assuming you're thinking "I know why - because you're a lunatic". Well, you're right, but allow me to explain...) And the reason for that is this: When I saw the picture, I burst out laughing, ridiculously loudly, before realising 2 things:

1. It's the middle of the night, everyone else in the flat is asleep, and I'm laughing like a loon at the idea of midgets laughing as they run, and

2. I was listening to a ridiculously depressing song by Nirvana at the time, and when I realised that, whilst listening to an incredibly dark song about mental illness and depression by a guy who shot himself, I was laughing - the thought of this made me laugh even harder, and then I couldn't stop for about half a minute straight.

So thank you, "Autocomplete Me" and Kurt Cobain, for making my night truly hilarious...


p.s. saw Kurt and Courtney earlier (whilst we're on Nirvana) so I might review that soon, also watched the movie "Street Kings" with Hugh Laurie (as in Hugh Laurie was in the film, I didn't watch it with him - oh, and I just saw Stephen Fry do an Epic Hugh Laurie burn on QI last night), so you can expect a review of that one too - probably tomorrow (haven't stated yet). So, until then - keeping those Midgets laughing!


p.p.s. I swear, I was just about to give up... but then this came up:

Why are people searching for these things?

Monday, 15 February 2010

#1 Commentary (Video)

Here's me trying to be Gladstone. I originally uploaded this in October, but then took it down, intending to edit a couple of bits and shorten it. However, I couldn't be bothered - so here it is in full; me trying to rip off Hate by Numbers, and failing miserably. Enjoy!

The Edge of Darkness Review (Text)

The Edge of Darkness is Mel Gibson’s first acting role in God knows how long (before his rant about how the Jews are responsible for all the wars), and is based on an old BBC television series of the same title. It also stars Ray Winston. Having not seen the original series, I’m not too sure how faithful the film adaptation is to the source material, so will have to review it as though this were an original movie.

The premise of the film is fairly simple: Mel Gibson’s daughter (as in the character’s daughter, not Gibson’s actual daughter – for simplicity’s sake I shall be referring to Gibson’s character as Mel Gibson throughout this review) is shot dead outside his house just before she can confess a secret to him, and whilst local police believe Gibson was the target (being a cop), he believes that his daughter was the intended target, and sets out to investigate the reason for her murder.

This no doubt sounds like a fairly familiar sounding plot – revenge movies have been incredibly popular over the last few years, with Harry Brown coming out last year, Taken and Punisher: War Zone coming out the year before, and various others also having come out fairly recently (e.g. The Brave One, and almost certainly ANOTHER Crow film), and never really changing the set up beyond: Protagonist’s wife/girlfriend/daughter/son is murdered/kidnapped/raped and, seeing that the police are unable to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice, the protagonist decides to take care of it themselves. The Edge of Darkness changes this up slightly, however, by placing revenge as the secondary motive for Gibson’s character, with the reason why it happened being his primary concern (much like the series House, M.D. where the puzzle is what matters, and solving it just happens to almost always save the patient). Also, the fact that it is based on a series means that it’s not just ripping the plot off from the movies already mentioned (it was an 80s series), but is probably ripping off Deathwish instead.

Edge of Darkness is also different in another way. It unfolds as more of a political thriller than the others, which are straight revenge stories, and seems more intelligent (though to be honest, these types of movies never require that much brain involvement to enjoy). I suspect the series was made during the height of anti-nuclear protests, but the film alters this slightly with the concern being on the creation by the US government of a dirty bomb, designed to look like a terrorist weapon (kind of like The Sum of all Fears). I would get into more detail, but I’m trying to be slightly more restrained than usual, and do more of a review than a synopsis (though those are always fun to do as well).

The film is fairly competently made, with the plot all unfolding nicely, and the actors portraying their characters fairly believably (although there was one point when I remembered thinking they would need to give the bad guy a moustache to twirl if they wanted him to look any more stereotypically evil). It’s also shot in a very conventional manner, which in many ways is a nice change to the revenge films of late: Taken used fast moving hand cameras (some of which was almost certainly DV, judging from the altering frame rates throughout), and so did the Bourne series. Punisher: War Zone used very limited colours, and fairly grainy film stock, not to mention the fact that it was shot in a really obscure aspect ratio (I remember speaking to the Cinematographer online after it came out on DVD, and he was explaining why it didn’t look quite right on the DVD when it had been fine in the cinemas – apparently the transfer to 16:9 was a problem because it was shot in some ridiculous ratio I had never heard of like 4.043:2 or something similar), and The Crow was very washed out, with most of the colours (aside from red) having been drained to give the film a far more neutral look. Now, I love all these little gimmicks, because in each case they work: War Zone really does look like they just put pages from the comics on the screen, Bourne and Taken put you right in the middle of the action, so the fight scenes seem less staged, and more like you’re watching them from nearby as they actually unfold, and the Crow looks very noir-ish (which it is, kind of). But at the same time, it is nice to see a proper, beautiful film, filled with all the colours of the spectrum, and crystal clear.

The special effects are amazing, too – there’s one scene where someone gets hit by a car, and I swear they actually just ran her over, that’s how real it looked. Of course, I said this about the scene in “The Machinist” when Christian Bale gets hit by the car, which IMDB users seem to strongly disagree with, calling it “Blatantly Fake” and “Clearly a dummy”. Though what do they know? They posted the exact same thing about Burt Reynolds’ trip down the waterfall in Deliverance and guess what? It was actually him (he almost killed himself, apparently).

That’s pretty well all I can say without getting into spoilers (which I will do below) – It’s a good movie, though if you were expecting another Taken, as the trailers made this appear to be, don’t hold your breath. The action is limited to just a few scenes (though the body count is admittedly still fairly high), and there is only really one scene that I would describe as “Taken-esque” (prior to Taken, such scenes were merely referred to as being Dongtacular). It is still an enjoyable movie, though, and doesn’t have so many of the confusing moments you usually get in political thrillers (you know, when you sit there and say – “hmmm... how did they know that?” and “THAT wasn’t explained!”) – though admittedly, there was one scene where Mel killed one of the bad guys who was after him, and then things continued as though nothing had happened despite the fact that he goes to the hospital afterwards, and the cops are clearly aware of what happened, and you kind of felt “surely they should either be following up on the guy who just tried to kill him, and will find out he was working for Northmoor [the bad guys] or they should be arresting Gibson pending an investigation into the shooting.” But aside from that, it was a very good film, which played out nicely (despite ultimately being fairly predictable)


3 Stars

Good, solid political thriller-come-action flick with an interesting story, great cinematography, good acting, and some bitching action and special effects (which thankfully aren’t overused). I’d recommend it, but don’t go in expecting Taken 2 (as the trailers want you to think) – if anything it’s closer to State of Play (another BBC adaptation), though this comparison is also pushing it.


I just want to address one issue that’s been brought up a couple of times on the IMDB message board for Edge of Darkness. A few people are saying they didn’t like the ending, because when Gibson’s character dies at the end, you see him walking out with his daughter into a bright white light, and apparently they don’t like the connotation that this signifies he is going to heaven because only die-hard atheists inhabit the IMDB boards. In response to these complaints, allow me to lay down a few scenarios which I feel make this ok for non-religious people:

At the end of Season 4 of House M.D., House is in a coma after receiving electroshock treatment, and we see him sitting on a bus, filled with bright light, sitting next to a dead patient. House is possibly the most atheist show on television (can a TV show be atheist?), containing numerous references to the fact that there is nothing after this, and there is no heaven. Yet Season 4 had a very similar ending to Edge of Darkness, and no-one complained. Why? Because we knew that it was all in House’s head, and that he hadn’t died and gone to heaven. Why can’t this same line of thinking be applied to Edge of Darkness if the idea of Heaven existing offends you so much? As Gibson’s character lay there dying, numerous chemicals were released into his brain (endorphins or whatever – I’m not a neurologist), and these caused him to hallucinate the appearance of his daughter. He saw himself walking away with her, and then he died. Nothing religious to it.

The other explanation is that maybe it was just a metaphor – you know how people say they’ll see a dead person again when they die? They don’t necessarily mean “Hey, let’s meet up in Heaven, that’ll be a right laugh!”, it’s just acknowledging the fact that they’ll both be dead together. The film makers might have just wanted to show a representation of this, again possibly as something Gibson’s character was thinking as he died, and do not mean for you to take it so literally.

And even if he was going to heaven, who really cares? I’m not really a religious man myself, and it didn’t bother me. It’s a nice, happy ending, as opposed to him just dying in the bed, and us realising that it was all for nothing, because we will all die and not have any memory of our existence, and therefore all our actions are meaningless. What a downer. I like my movies to have a happy ending – and at the end of Ghost, nobody was screaming “Religious propaganda! Raaaargh!!!”. No – a few guys said “Man, how cheesy was THAT?”, and every girl in the audience (and half the guys) just sat there on the edge of tears and thought “Wow. That was beautiful”. Now, I get that there is a slight difference between serious political thriller, and a silly Patrick Swayze romantic comedy, but come on – is the idea of Heaven really that offensive? Even Richard Dawkins would let that one slide, so why not allow Edge of Darkness the same treatment?

The answer, of course, is “because Mel Gibson directed passion of the Christ, a massive symbol to the Catholics, and we don’t like them” – that’s all there really is to it.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The 8 Best Internet Comedy Songs (that I've found so far) - (Text... but with videos)

Continuing the theme of lists discussing music...

Ah, the internet – some argue that it only exists for porn, others just use it for Warcraft. But some of us use it as a means of getting our hilarious videos to the masses, through sites such as YouTube, Google, or Digg. There are a lot of videos out there, pertaining to various subjects – copyright infringement, racism, and having an incredibly annoying voice – but the one I’m going to pick up on today is Internet Comedy Music Videos & Songs. Before anyone screams about the fact that “The lonely Island” or “Chocolate Rain” or “Ken Kaniff” aren’t on here – allow me to just explain my ground rules in choosing this list: They must all be amateur videos, no professional studio work. They must also have been intended as comedic songs, and not just songs that were meant to be serious but turned out funny (looking at you, Chocolate Rain! (you too, El Mundo!)). They cannot have been written with the intent of being included on an actual album, either – So Aristotle is out, as are Remy’s later songs (though you will notice I included one of his earlier songs in the list). With these restrictions in mind, I give you my list of the 8 Best Internet Comedy Songs that I’ve Found So Far:

so, getting the most immature (yet brilliant) stuff out the way first...

#8. Look into my Eyes while I Masturbate – Bart Baker

The Lonely Island get a lot of credit for their song “Jizz in my Pants” – but that was a professionally produced, well-financed video which starred Justin Timberlake and Meadow Soprano! As far as I’m concerned, no studio video can ever be classed as being a true “internet video”, and therefore it didn’t make the list. In its place, however, is a song on a vaguely similar theme – Bart Baker’s “Look into my Eyes while I Masturbate”

The song is set in the distant future year “2010” - bear in mind it was made in January 2009 – in which “Robots have taken over the world, and unfortunately: destroyed all the girls?”. It is the simple tale of two best friends living in cyber-space, unaware of the horrors the robots are performing, harvesting humans in a manner similar to that depicted in “The Matrix”, because the male humans are all too busy watching the reams and reams of internet porn their consciousness still has access to.

It’s an amusing concept, and given the obviously low budget (judging from the inflatable Bobba Fett Jetpack) is executed incredibly well. My green-screening never looks anywhere near that impressive, and I don’t even own a Guit-Board, so that alone earns these guys my undying respect. Plus the ending’s hilarious.

#7. Blame Halo 3 – James at War

Spoofs are always fun – Weird Al’s usually good for a laugh – but often YouTube loses sight of what’s really important when making a parody, and we wind up with a hundred awful parodies of “On a Boat” – A parody itself (See Michael Swaim’s work for Cracked TV on this – just so I don’t get accused of plagiarism!) How nice, therefore, to have a genuinely good home-made parody of a song that was popular when this video was made. James at War hilariously changes the lyrics of Akon’s “Blame it on Me” to tell the story of a relationship left in ruins all because of Halo 3. Not owning an Xbox myself, I have not fully experienced the alleged addictiveness of this game. However, I have inferred from the comments left on the video’s YouTube page that Halo addiction is very serious, and that this song is a very true-to-life representation of the dangers of Halo 3.

#6. All My Shootings Be Drive-Bys – MC Hawking

Perhaps an unconventional choice, Given I’m listing an MC Hawking song, but this one is definitely good for a laugh. Whilst other MC Hawking songs such as “What we need more of is science” and “fuck the creationists” are perhaps more intelligent, containing critical analyses of Evangelist beliefs on a scale Richard Dawkins would be proud of, I still can’t get over the hilarity of the concept that Stephen Hawking is a Gang Banger who rolls on “MIT punks” with his AK. Lines like “time to give a Newtonian demonstration of a bullet, its mass, and its acceleration” are incredible, combining scientific theory with rap music about drive bys, and having a “Stephen Hawking” voice machine read it off. Apparently they sent Mr Hawking a copy of the album (A Brief History of Rhyme), and he found it amusing enough to agree to let them put his name on it, so no need to feel bad about that, either. This may deserve to rank higher, but without a video to go with it, I’m afraid it is forever relegated to 6th position, left in the shadow of greats such as:

#5. Saturday Morning Watchmen – Harry Partridge

Wow. Just… wow. This video is absolutely outstanding. Harry Partridge manages to combine the characters from Alan Moore’s Watchmen with the stylings of 80s kids TV shows to make one of the most hilarious parodies on the internet. It’s a testament to Mr. Partridge’s video making abilities that a large number of commenters on his YouTube page seem to be under the impression that this video is the opening from a Genuine Watchmen TV show, and not the work of an animation and writing genius. Everything about this video is dead on – all the Watchmen references it contains which twist the original story in ridiculous manners are just fantastic: Rorschach stroking the German shepherds, The Comedian fancying Silk Specter 2, Adrian catching the Comedian as he goes out the window, “John can give you cancer” – everything is just so well thought out, and it seems as though “Happy Harry” (a reference to Watchmen in itself) meticulously went through the comics, making notes of all the important character points, then turning them on their heads. The fact that some of the scenes look identical to panels from the comic, too – The Comedian going out the window couldn’t look more similar – also adds to the overall value of the video, and it is definitely worth a watch.

#4. Scientology is... Nice – Tim Cameron

I almost hesitate to include this video, as I am fully aware that the Church of Scientology have a bit of a reputation for scanning the internet looking for anyone who speaks out against them in any manner, and by listing this I may risk losing the chance of casting Tom Cruise in my movie “Dave Savage – One Man Against 4… Chan!”. However, Tim Cameron’s hilarious song, which in essence is about nothing more than the alleged rampant homosexuality present within the Church, definitely deserves a place on this list. Despite the fact that the song never actually says anything negative against either Scientology or Homosexuals, aside from likening the two, seems to have been lost on the majority of commenters on the song’s YouTube page, with a number of comments saying things along the lines of “what’s wrong with gay people? STFU fagzoar” – evidently missing the irony that the term fagzoar was invented as a derogatory term to describe homosexual Xbox users. What I believe the song actually refers to is a quote from scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in which he said that gay people needed to be “disposed of”, and is playing on the classic analysis that those expressing the most hatred for homosexuals are often gay themselves. But I can’t be certain about that. Whatever the meaning, the song and video are both hilarious, and so are the comments left by contributors like “XenuSmurf”, who in response to the video states:

“Holy Shit!! I took an e-meter and stuck the cans between my thighs as I jerked off to a video of Tom Cruise, and the needle went crazy back and forth. I rock-slammed. I have evil intentions. If I was a Scilon, I'd be sent to the RPF slave camp where there is no Internet, no YouTube, no videos of Tom Cruise, no KY jelly. Horrors!!!”

Having never watched Battlefield Earth, most of this is over my head, but I appreciate the Sentiment.

#3. Opposites attract – Go Remy

The whole of this video, like Remy’s others, is incredibly well made, and he clearly put a lot of effort into doing it. However, the thing that really makes it for me is just one single line: “I can’t dance – she can’t vote”. Now, I know that the idea of women not having rights in a lot of Middle Eastern countries isn’t something to laugh at, but damn it – the way he works the line into the song is just plain genius, and had me laughing for ages the first time I heard it. The greenscreen and splitscreen work included in the video are incredible too, and very impressive for what must have been a very cheaply made video. The little references such as the Monopoly playset also help make the video what it is.

Scarily, looking up information about the Tigris (you’ll notice that’s where he works as a lifeguard in the video), I discovered that (and I quote): “In Sumerian mythology, the Tigris was created by the god Enki, who ejaculated and filled the river with flowing water” – that sounds about as bizarre as Japanese creation mythology!

Perhaps the greatest part of this video, however, is the beautiful poetry which can be found in the comments section. One commenter left this magnificent piece:

فالدُرُ في كنف المحار نفيســــه ... ولــــذاك يُقصد في المقام الأرفعِ
والدرّ في الأعماق يعظم قــــدرهُ ... ويزيدُ قــــدرا في المكان الأمنعِ

Which Microsoft Word’s “Translate” function informs me is Arabic for:

It potato in Oyster Naves e ... and that is intended primarily for higher and Alder in the depths of the greatest ability ... and more attracted where [No Results were found.]

Hmm… maybe it needed to be translated from Persian instead?

#2. I’ll Cut Myself – Death Car for Jimmy

I hate to mention Michael Swaim twice in one article (because you may give up on reading my stuff and go hang out on his Blog instead), but this video is certainly worth a mention. Not only is the song a perfect parody of the entire emo culture, but the music is actually good! I could quite happily listen to this as an actual song, rather than just a spoof. Combine this with the hilarious video, and you’re on to internet music gold! I love the long, slow shots, the way the camera slips in and out of focus, and the lingering tracking shots on Swaim’s face. The locations are also perfect – the train track, the escalator, the field – it’s all just so overwhelmingly emo! I would rank this above the music video Stewie makes in that one episode of family guy (which is bizarrely shown in Mirror Image in every YouTube video I can find of it - look at the writing) in terms of nailing music video clichés on the end – because it is so targeted, and knows exactly who it is parodying. Even the little MTV-style artist/track listing in the bottom corner at the start is perfect – the band being referred to as “Death Car for Jimmy”, a parody of famous emo group “Death Cab for Cutie”. Of course, some YouTube commenters have to go and ruin it for us all, reminding us that people cutting themselves is actually a very serious issue - Geez, way to go Captain Buzzkill… Why don’t you join the feminists on the Opposites Attract comments board and ruin even more peoples’ days?

#1. Sex Offender Shuffle – Scott Gairdner and Alfred Montejano

Somehow, this track inexplicably managed to lose in an online head-to-head with this random twilight video (which is admittedly amusing, just not quite on the same level) for best comedy music video on some site I was linked to but don’t frequent so have not remembered the name of. But this song has it all – the 80s, jokes about sex offenders, Laura Hughes… How do you top that? Sure, the concept isn’t quite up there with “That Guy from Nickleback – Private Eye”, but the execution of this project is flawless. The clothing and props fit the 80s Miami theme perfectly, set design is great and looks like it was shot in an actual studio, and the direction is brilliant. The introduction is hiralious, and looks almost as though it could be a genuine PSA, the lyrics themselves are funny and original, and you also get the feeling they must have had a lot of fun making it. Plus, checking the comments section for the video, it’s clear that, thanks to Mr. Gairdner and Co. 80s chic is coming back in, with more guys saying how hot they think “Laura Hughes” is than I’ve ever seen girl-related comments on a video before… Clearly having massive glasses and dressing like a guy’s mother is the best way to get him to notice you afterall…

As I already mentioned, this is just a list of my favourite such songs so far, and if you want me to watch a song/video you’re particularly fond of that you feel should have made the list, leave a link to it in the comments section, and I may include it in my next such list (in the event I make one).

Until next time.


Clerks - Mini Review (Text)

Well, I finally did it. I finally got round to watching Clerks. I’d seen Mallrats, Dogma and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back before, but everyone told me that I needed to watch Clerks, the film where it all began. And you know what? They were right.

Clerks is one of those rare movies where it turns out to be exactly what everyone told you it would be. Often you hear varying opinions on films before seeing them, and usually you find yourself walking out thinking how wrong they were. I’ve walked into films which people had told me were brilliant, and walked out unimpressed (The Dark Knight). I’ve also seen films people told me were awful, and actually rather enjoyed myself watching them (Cloverfield). But Clerks, I was told by everyone, was hilariously written, and with some of the best characters and dialogue you’ve heard. But despite its near constant praise, it is never referred to as a “masterpiece”.

It’s the kind of film you can have the time of your life watching, and afterwards realise there was really nothing to it. It’s cheaply made and for the most part poorly acted, but that doesn’t matter – because when you’re in the moment, it’s an experience of a lifetime. Most of the dialogue seems completely genuine, with some of the conversations even reflecting discussions I’ve had myself (possibly even with people who had seen the movie and were under the impression we were paraphrasing the dialogue to each other). The idea of just shooting a movie based around 2 guys working in a store on a day when everything is going wrong for one of them is such a basic concept, it’s hard to believe you could make such an entertaining movie out of it, and yet Kevin Smith succeeded.

In many ways, it feels like the low budget of the film, $27,000, helped to make it as great as it is. Some of the actors are reused 3 or 4 times, either in various basic disguises, or only being shot from the back, and the locations are minimal. The scene in which the protagonists Dante and Randall (though I suppose it could be argued that in many ways Randall is the antagonist of the piece) visit a funeral parlour is completely absent from the movie, despite having been in the script, because presumably they couldn’t afford to rent out a space that looked like a funeral parlour and get a coffin. However, the way that the film embraced this lack of scene, and instead tells the story later, looking back on the event “Reservoir Dogs” style, is outstanding.

There’s not too much more I can say about the movie to be honest, any in-depth discussion into it will inevitably devolve into mere quoting, because it’s the dialogue that makes this film. Imagine if the opening scene of reservoir Dogs had spanned the entire movie – a film about a bunch of guys eating in a Diner, just discussing popular culture whilst events unfurl around them – and you’ll have an idea of the kind of movie Clerks is.

So, to sum up, if you haven’t seen Clerks, check it out – it’s definitely worth a watch. Clerks 2 wasn’t bad, either, though admittedly it doesn’t hold up when compared to the original. Still, worth a watch.


4 stars

Good, solid movie that I would definitely recommend, although I do get the feeling that it won’t be very re-watchable, as you’ll probably have to forget most of what’s said and happens to enjoy watching it through again. Still, brilliant movie first time through, and very impressively done on such a small budget,

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The 7 Best Cover Songs in my Media Library (that I'm aware are covers) - (text)

Often, cover songs are rubbish. Or at least, they’re nothing on the original. Here’s a list of 7 which, even if they don’t outdo the originals, at least come damn close (I apologize if I have missed your favourite cover song, but I’m really just working off my own Media Player at the moment to avoid having to do very extensive research):

#7 Layla (unplugged) – Eric Clapton

Note: unfortunately, I can't find the actual video, but this is the same song.

This one may be cheating a little, given Clapton was the main player in Derek and the Dominoes, so essentially is doing an acoustic version of HIS OWN SONG. However, there’s no denying that this is one of the greatest covers ever recorded. Listening to the original song, you would find it hard to believe that doing an acoustic version could improve it at all – the whole reason anyone likes Layla is the sheer energy, after all: The fast, screaming guitars and vocals have such an energy it’s impossible to listen to the song without wanting to sing (or strum) along to it. And yet – the acoustic version has a quality the original doesn’t. It’s not more feeling, just a different kind of feeling – from passionate aggressive love, to a softer, almost regretful tone. It’s an outstanding cover, if you can call it that, and as I’ve said before – I’m glad Clapton won the Grammy (even if Entertainment Weekly isn’t). Cocaine’s a great cover, too – but sadly not quite good enough to make this list.

#6 The Man Who Sold the World – Nirvana

I’m as big a fan of saying “anything British that the Americans steal is going to turn out rubbish” as the next man. However, this is the exception that proves the rule. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Bowie’s version of the song (which I heard first), but the fact is, if you’re going to write a song about a schizophrenic losing his mind (I’m right about this, aren’t I? Wikipedia wasn’t very helpful, it just said something about H.P. Lovecraft – and I know pretty well all of Bowies songs have alternate meanings; I mean, I knew Jean Genie was about drugs, but Space Oddity? Really? Next you’ll be telling me Rammstein’s “Ohne Dich” is actually about heroin withdrawal, and not a lost love... But that’s for a different post), then having an apparently insane heroin-addicted (Bowie, to my knowledge, was never addicted to Heroin, though he was possibly insane and a big fan of drugs as well) man sing it in a tone that sounds as though he’s considering killing himself (which, in order to avoid getting sued, I’m going to say he was – not that Courtney Love is likely to be reading this) makes perfect sense (seriously, I reckon a depressed Russell Brand could do an awesome cover of this song). Nirvana’s slower, darker tone really reflects the feeling expressed in Bowie’s lyrics, and in some ways, this makes the cover the superior song. Hilariously, Bowie suffered from the Bob Dylan effect (referred to as such because damn near everyone thinks that Guns N Roses wrote “Knockin’ on Heavens Door” and Hendrix wrote “All Along the Watchtower” – though I suppose Bob can’t complain – everyone thinks he wrote “House of the Rising Sun”) after the cover came out, as evidenced by this sentence taken from Nicholas Pegg’s Bowie Biography “The Complete David Bowie”, which I haven’t actually read, so stole this quote from Wikipedia, which referenced the book as its source:

In the wake of this cover, Bowie bemoaned the fact that when he performed the number himself he would encounter "kids that come up afterwards and say, 'It's cool you're doing a Nirvana song.' And I think, 'Fuck you, you little tosser!'”
Damn kids and their music, right Dave?

#5 Midnight Mover – Lordi

What’s better than speed metal? Heavy Metal, apparently – Finnish “monster rock” group Lordi recorded this ridiculously heavy cover of German metal group Accept’s 1985 hit “Midnight Mover” as the B-Side to their single “They only come out at night” (with guest vocalist Udo Dirkschnider, formerly frontman of Accept, and now lead singer of U.D.O), and it blows the A-Side out of the water by a long shot. Although in many ways it does not hold up to the original Accept version, the heavier sound puts this cover firmly in a different genre, making comparisons more difficult. Both have the same powerful energy, and are undoubtedly a couple of the best songs to get yourself psyched up (although I maintain Rammstein’s single “Benzin” is probably the best song for putting yourself on edge), but beyond that, they seem to be completely different songs – despite keeping the exact same rhythm, notes and lyrics. Accept is fast as anything, and feels like something you could run or box to, where as Lordi’s cover is far more head-bang and air-guitar inducing. Whilst the screeched delivery of the vocals may be off-putting for some, in many ways I feel it makes a nice change to the “scream-metal” culture that has developed within in this genre, and it feels good to have the 80s feel back again (although, admittedly, I am rather partial towards Church of Misery, who can only be described as “Scream-Tastic” – still, they’re Japanese, and I guess screaming Metal lyrics is preferable to making “tentacle rape anime” – which from my internet research (AS IN READING ARTICLES ABOUT JAPANESE CULTURE, NOT GOOGLING “TENTACLE RAPE ANIME"!) I’m certain everyone else in Japan does).

#4 Cum on Feel the Noise – Quiet Riot

What can I say? I have good memories of driving around Vice City in a sports car, trying to finish 6 assassinations in 5 and a half minutes as this blared out on V-Rock with Lazlow. It’s just an immense song – the pinnacle of 80s rock music, despite being a cover of a 70s song. Again, it’s an American group covering a British band, but it’s still awesome – and in my opinion, better than the original. The faster drum beat opening, and the section around 3:20 in where the guitars fade out for one rendition of the chorus make this cover, and are what separate it from Slade’s original. This is one of the best driving songs recorded (I could have sworn I wrote an article on the best driving songs, but I can’t find it, so look out for that one – cos I’m gonna be writing it soon!), and an amazing cover. Apparently, Oasis did a cover so the song too - but they're wankers.

#3 My Way – Sid Vicious

I’ve never really listened to the Sex Pistols – or, if I have, I wasn’t aware that it was them performing. I haven’t seen Sid and Nancy, either. In fact, the only reason I know of this song’s existence is because it was used over the end credits of Goodfellas. Is it a cover? Possibly not. It uses the same basic refrain and opening instrumentals as the original version, but other than that is completely different. The harsh lyrics, the punk guitars that come in after a minute or so – couldn’t be more different from the original. Now, I wouldn’t call “It Was a Good Day” a cover of “Footsteps in the Dark”, just as I wouldn’t refer to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” as a cover of the Rick James song “Super Freak”, despite the fact they share the exact same instrumentals. However, both Sinatra and Sid Vicious’ versions of My Way share not only the same title, but the exact same theme, too – a serious reflection on the artists’ lives, and an honest belief that it was right to act as they did, the fact that everything they did they did their own way being more important than what anyone thought of the way in which they acted. This cover seems to be a mixture of honest confession, and just messing around, and that’s part of what makes it so great. Some of it sounds serious, and some of it is just plain absurd. The fact that Vicious was dead within a year of the song’s release adds further to the feeling of the song, because it seems almost like a near-deathbed confession. Plus, the video is insane!

#2 Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley

I’ll just say this right off the bat – I’m a big Leonard Cohen fan, and I prefer both of his versions of the song to any of the covers. However, as far as covers go, this one is damn good. The minimal instrumentals, made up mostly of just acoustic guitar with minor backing, is such a change from Cohen’s Orchestral, Operatic sounding song, that it’s almost hard to believe it’s the same song. The verses Buckley chose to use are also arranged very intelligently. Whilst Cohen’s original 1984 version focuses more on religious themes, and righteous love, his 1988 version focuses more on lost love and lust. Buckley took the first 2 verses of the 1984 version, and combined it with the entire 1988 version of the song, to create a more tragic sounding love song. The slow pace and softer instrumentals also add to this, making it one of the saddest sounding songs recorded. Much like Cobain, Vicious and DuBrow above, and #1 below, Buckley has also passed on since the recording of this song, though by drowning rather than overdose (and before you say it – Cobain had 3 times a lethal dose of heroin in his body when he was found, so would have been dead even without the 20-gauge shot through his brain), and this makes the song sound more tragic still. It is also possibly the only cover to really do Cohen’s work justice, with all the others seemingly just being a way of “cashing-in” on the success of the song. Does this song beat the original in my books? Of course not – But it comes about as close as possible.

#1 All Along the Watchtower – Hendrix

That's the second list I've done with this one on! I need to branch out more...

Most Bob Dylan covers don’t hold up to the originals. Despite the fact that Dylan can’t actually sing in a conventional sense, he still gives far more feeling in his delivery than almost anyone who has tried to cover his songs, and you get the feeling that many of the people who attempt Dylan covers missed the point of what the original song was about. Not Hendrix, however, who demonstrates he knows what he’s doing with this perfect remodelling of Dylan’s most covered song “All Along the Watchtower”. The heavier opening beat sets up the entire tone of the song, and as always, Hendrix’s guitar work towards the end is unrivalled. Combine this with the powerful delivery of previously soft, concerned lyrics, and this has to be one of the best covers in history – and the only Bob Dylan cover I listen to more often than the original. In fact, if you type "All along the watchtower" into google, it'llcome up with Hendrix BEFORE Dylan!

It was also awesome when they used it in Watchmen.


Or, at least, their Publishing house is. I got "Preacher: book one" in the summer, under the impression that it contained the first two volumes of the paperback comics ("Gone to Texas" and "Until the End of the World"). When I got Volume 3 a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that a lot seemed to have happened between the end of "Book One" and the start of "Volume 3", and realised that Book One must have only contained "Volume One", and was merely a hard cover version of it. "No problem" I thought to myself "I'm sure it won't matter if I read Volume 2 after Volume 3", and I made a mental note to buy "Until The End of the World" at the next good opportunity. However, looking online, I have now discovered to my horror that Book One contains all of "Gone to Texas", but only half of "Until The End of the World". Half a volume! What the hell? Now, I'm stuck - because I don't want to buy Volume 2 when I already have half of it, but I want to read that story arc, and I want a copy of it in case I want to read it again later! Hopefully, Someone will be willing to buy my copy of volume 3 off of me, so I can get book 2 (containing half of volume 2 and all of volume 3) and be squared away. I just can't understand why they would do it like that, though - it seems like it was designed to cause problems!

Aside from that, however, Preacher is great - and worth a read if you can get round the ridiculous Publishing decisions.

Smells Like Teen Spirit (Text)

Recently reading “The Story of You Know Who”, a graphic novel by Garth Ennis that has absolutely nothing to do with Harry Potter or Lord Voldemort (having come out prior to the Philosopher’s Stone), I was surprised by one specific line of dialogue. The story is about the run up to the attempted suicide of a teenage boy following Kurt Cobain’s death, and the protagonist is a massive Nirvana fan. However, in the scene where he is explaining his love for the band, the song he references is the group’s biggest hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

Smells Like Teen Spirit is the song that most people remember Nirvana for - Because it’s catchy. I remember watching Saturday morning kids TV, and the opening instrumentals of the song were used as an introduction to the studio show that came on right after the cartoons. I’ve heard people say that the song captured the feelings of an entire generation, and that it is the most true reflection of the early 90s youth culture to have ever been recorded. But is it?

I remember reading one writer’s outrage at Eric Clapton winning the Grammy in 1992 for the acoustic version of Layla, stating that Smells Like Teen Spirit was the superior song. However, as a fan of both Clapton and Nirvana, I have to respectfully disagree. Whilst it’s true that I was too young at the time to remember the impact of Nirvana, I have become somewhat of a fan in later life, and therefore feel qualified to make statements regarding this topic.

You see, the truth about “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is that even Cobain himself wasn’t that impressed with the song. Now, you may be thinking “so what? Kafka asked for all his works to be burned right before his death because he thought they were awful and never wanted them to be read”, or at least you will be if you were trying to think of another great artist who hated their own works and have “The Trial” sitting across the room from you. If you’ve got a boxset of “The X-Files” on your DVD shelf, you’re probably thinking the same about Darren Morgan. But the fact is; Kurt wrote the song to be popular. He didn’t write it because he wanted to express himself, or because it was a topic that was important to him. He wrote the song so that people would buy it. And that’s the problem with it.

Most fans will agree that what makes Nirvana great is that Kurt et al seem to be expressing real feelings – real pain, real confusion, real suffering – and it shows. Smells Like Teen Spirit, however, was nothing more than Cobain’s attempt to write a Pixies’ song. Now, I have nothing against The Pixies – I even mentioned my passion for “Here Comes Your Man” in a previous post. Nor do I have a problem with Smells Like Teen Spirit as a song. It’s well written, well performed, and it’s catchy as hell. What I do have a problem with is Smells Like Teen Spirit as a Nirvana song. Compare it to some of their other songs. Not even more obscure ones like “Endless Nameless”, but tracks off their hits album – even the other catchy pop-like songs they wrote are a lot darker in tone, and more honest sounding: Sliver, Lithium, Come as You Are. Sure, they’re similar in tone and pace to Smells Like Teen Spirit (Lithium and Come As You Are having been on the album “Nevermind” too), but there’s more honesty behind them. Then compare these tracks to the ones that appeared on In Utero – Heart Shaped Box, Pennyroyal Tea, Rape Me – these tracks are far softer, more poetic, and it is this album which I feel truly reflects Kurt’s feelings. They were already famous at the time of recording, and had long ago stopped caring about their image – to me, if you want to pin a song to the group, make it one of these. It is common knowledge that the group listed both the song and video for Heart Shaped Box as being one of their greatest achievements, and personally I’m a big fan of Pennyroyal Tea, where Cobain’s love of poets such as Leonard Cohen clearly shows through, whilst at the same time, the song still retains the dark feeling of Nirvana’s older tracks.

Now, I accept that since In Utero was Nirvana’s last studio album, perhaps it wouldn’t have been appropriate to list one of the songs on it as the reason the character from “The Story of you Know Who” was so into Nirvana – but I just wanted to make the point that Nirvana is not “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and pretty well any other track would have been more appropriate. If the character lists Smells Like Teen Spirit as being the great track that really changed who Nirvana were for him, then he doesn’t strike me as a guy who actually cared for the content of the songs, and was just going along with the flow. I guess what I’m trying to say is – I doubt any of the 68 people who committed suicide after Cobain’s death, as the story depicts, would have listed Smells Like Teen Spirit as their favourite Nirvana song.

As for Smells Like Teen Spirit winning the grammy over “Layla”, I find it hard to believe Cobain would have even wanted the award had they won it. Now, I hate posers far more than the next guy. An old Girlfriend (as in Ex-Girlfriend, she’s younger than me) once mentioned how cool she thought the Artic Monkeys were for refusing to take an award, and I just thought “What posers, trying to act all Rock ‘N’ Roll as though that makes them cool. Losers”. But with Cobain, it was just the guy he was. He didn’t care for his image, and he didn’t care for his fans. I’m glad Clapton won the award, simply because I feel he probably appreciated it more than Kurt would have. And for the Gentleman arguing a good 14-15 years after Cobain’s death that he should have won the Grammy, I feel I should quote Kurt’s response to over-zealous fan letters from the year before he died.

“Why Don’t they get a life and stop worshiping me?”

He’s dead, man – get over it. Clapton’s awesome.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Are Golden Globes the new Oscar?

It used to be whenever a film was coming out, the trailers would say of the actors and director (when applicable): "Oscar winning actor - ", "Academy Award winning Director - ". But apparently, no more.

I first noticed this strange phenomenon whilst watching the Sherlock Holmes trailers back in December, in which Robert Downey, jr is credited as "Golden Globe nominated", as opposed to "Academy Award Nominated" (Downey, jr was nominated for Chaplin back in 1992). At the time, I assumed that this was because Mr. Downey has had somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, and has built up an entirely new image of himself, fairly devoid of his persona from when he starred in Chaplin. Indeed, the majority of Rob Downey, jr fans I know weren't even aware of his existence until Iron Man and Tropic Thunder - although a few did watch Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. I would therefore class myself as being an old-school Downey, jr fan - having followed him since I first saw him in US Marshals, and then again in Natural Born Killers (which actually came out before US Marshals, but I was too young to watch it at the time) - but even I did not see Chaplin, and was only aware he had been nominated for it through the magnificence that is the Internet Movie Database. So, in short, I could forgive them for billing Robert Downey, jr as they did.

But today I saw a trailer for Invictus, Clint Eastwood's newest movie (as director), and it was billed as such: "Golden Globe winning Director Clint Eastwood", "Golden Globe winning Actor Morgan Freeman", and "Golden Globe winning actor Matt Damon". This led me to the conclusion that Academy Awards have fallen out of favour, and the Golden Globes are now in. Why? Because ALL 3 of these guys have won Oscars! Now, Damon's was for writing (Good Will Hunting, 1997), so I'll forgive them for not mentioning that - but Morgan Freeman won Best Actor for Million Dollar Baby (I had to look that one up, thought it might have been Driving Miss Daisy he won for), and Clint Eastwood won Best Director AND Best Picture for both Million Dollar Baby AND Unforgiven (knew both of those). So, as mentioned above - Academy Awards are out of fashion.

Now, those of you who have read my previous reviews (specifically, I think this may have been mentioned in The Dark Knight), you will remember I was discussing Boycotting the Oscars, since they awarded one to Roman Polanski after he fled the US on rape charges (and hey, I wrote that review before it became this media sensation last year when he was caught - first on the bandwagon!) - but he was nominated for a Golden Globe after that too, so clearly the guy who is in charge of making trailers didn't just read my blog and decide it was a good idea to boycott the oscars till Polanski was stripped of his. I was also going to suggest that maybe they weren't crediting Oscars so highly because the greatest actor ever (in terms of attractiveness and general suave-ness, not necessarily acting talent) George Clooney had never received one, but damn it - whilst checking on IMDB to see (in case he had won one for Best Director on Good Night and Good Luck or something), I discovered that Mr Clooney was awarded an Oscar for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role" for Syriana (so here's to hoping Jeff Bridges wins this year - no need to be greedy, George - one will do). So, that's all my theories shot to bits. If you want to post your theory on why the Oscars are now "out", whilst the Golden Globes are "in", feel free to leave a comment (seriously - it makes the Blog look more popular, and I don't feel so much like i'm just wasting my life on here (forgive the life evaluation, but I just got another year older less than 3 hours ago)).

So, until next time - strip Polanski of his Oscar! (and if you're on his side, try sitting through the entire video of that Dutch guy I posted a couple of weeks ago, then tell me paedophilia's ok).