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1 May, 2009


Anyone have a spare $1,000?  'Cos I want longer legs.

15 November, 2008

Review: 'Neverwhere' (graphic novel) (Neil Gaiman/Mike Carey & Glenn Fabry, 2006)

I only have a very vague memory of watching 'Neverwhere' when it was first shown on TV in 1996, but I recall thinking its concepts and story far exceeded the (usual) low-budget BBC execution of it.

30 May, 2008

Review: Blessed are the Bonds (The Pax Cecilia, 2007)

Fancy some free music for the weekend?

2 February, 2008

Review: Title Temporarily Unavailable (2008)

I can't help agreeing with these reviews at LoveFilm; I found it literally unwatchable too.

4 January, 2008

Catching up with the flow, IV

In March 2005, I joined Amazon DVD Rental.  Four months later, I commented on those I'd seen, and repeated the exercise in December 2005 and 2006.  In 2007, I rented:

2 January, 2008

Review: The Departed (2006)

I wasn't sure whether I wanted to see this, as I resent the idea that 'Mou gaan dou' ('Internal Affairs'), a wonderful 2004 film which just happens to be in Chinese, needed to be remade for an Anglophone audience too lazy to read subtitles.

25 December, 2007

Music of the year

I don't really like ranked 'Best of' lists – their compilation is too anal and stereotypically male for my taste, and the idea of asserting that Album A is 'better' than Album B but not as 'good' as Album C is patently absurd.  However, I thought it reasonable to identify those albums released in 2007 that I have (and haven't...) particularly liked.
It wasn't until that list reached fourteen albums that I really realised how productive a year this has been – most of my favourite artists have released something in 2007, and I've made a couple of worthwhile new discoveries.

15 December, 2007

Review: Porcupine Tree, Academy 1, Manchester, 8 December, 2007 (w. Anathema)

Back to Manchester for my second Porcupine Tree concert of the year.

2 October, 2007

Review: 'Nil Recurring' (Porcupine Tree, 2007)

In mid-September, Porcupine Tree released a 29-minute CD 'EP' of additional material derived from the 'Fear of a Blank Planet' sessions, with a title arguably better than that earlier album: 'Nil Recurring'.

24 September, 2007

Review: TRON (1982)

I watched this on TV last night, slightly amused by the pretext under which BBC 4 (the BBC's 'arts' channel) showed it.  The previous programme had been a documentary on Jean Giraud aka Moebius, the French comics artist.  He'd designed the set and costumes for 'TRON', so....

16 September, 2007

Review: '13th Star' (Fish, 2007)

This is a 'grower'.

29 July, 2007

Review: 'Klimt' (2006)

Incoherent, diminishing in coherence over almost two hours.

24 July, 2007

Review: 'Curse of the Golden Flower' (2006)

Sumptuous, expansive... and that's just the anachronistic décolletages*.

22 July, 2007

Review: 'Continuum 2' (Continuum, 2007)

Four minutes and three seconds.

23 June, 2007

Review: Free (OSI, 2006)

Soon after the release of OSI's second album, 'Free', I drafted a review, but somehow I prevaricated about filling-out and rewriting my rough notes, and a year has passed.  I think I'd better accept the inevitable and publish it almost as-is.

26 April, 2007

Review: Porcupine Tree, 53 Degrees, Preston, 20 April, 2007 (w. Amplifier)

One of my favourite bands, performing my 'album of the year' (to date) live, within cycling distance (well, 37 km) of my home?  Do you think I could have missed that?

[Looking for the album review?]

21 April, 2007

Review: 'Fear of a Blank Planet' (Porcupine Tree, 2007)

Porcupine Tree's much-anticipated ninth studio album was released on 16 April, so I suppose I ought to stop enjoying it long enough to write a review.

[Looking for the concert review?]

14 April, 2007

Review: 'Somewhere Else' (Marillion, 2007)

Meh.  Fifty-two minutes of blandness.

Officially released on 9 April, the pre-order special edition of Marillion's 14th studio album, 'Somewhere Else' reached me on 6 April, so I've had plenty of time to absorb it.  However, the following few paragraphs were written immediately after I'd heard the album for the first time.  Don't panic about some of it; as I say afterwards, I was mistaken on at least one point, but it's interesting to record my unalloyed immediate impression.

31 March, 2007

Review: 'The Thirteenth Floor' (1999)

A 'Matrix' clone without the PVC (damn).
That's not an entirely fair summary, but if you were interested by the Wachowski brothers' exploration of layers of artificial reality, this is an alternative take on the same broad concept.

17 February, 2007

Review: 'Blackfield II' (Blackfield, 2007)

After planning a collaboration for some time, Steven Wilson (Bass Communion, Porcupine Tree, No-Man and several other projects) and Aviv Geffen (Israeli pop star) released an album of intelligent pop songs in 2004, under the name Blackfield.  The follow-up to the eponymous debut album is cunningly entitled 'Blackfield II' and was officially released on 12 February, though pre-orders from Burning Shed and Headphone Dust were despatched slightly earlier; I've had my copy since 10 February so have had over a week to consider my reaction.

21 January, 2007

A week of films

Eight days, six films, four at the cinema.  I'm slowing down....

17 January, 2007

Review: 'The History Boys' (2006)

I don't know.
I'm sure it was an excellent stage play, but film is a rather different medium, and a direct transfer (rather than translation) of the former into the latter came across as far too contrived.  I don't exactly object to cerebral content in films, but this lacked subtlety, and seemed merely clever.

29 October, 2006

Review: 'Insider' (Amplifier, 2006)

That was curiously unimpressive.

25 September, 2006

Aisles decked

It's the moment for which you've all been waiting: the Sainsbury's christmas stock is now on the shelves.

10 September, 2006

Review: 'The Notorious Bettie Page' (2005)

Curiously superficial.
I suppose the significance of Bettie Page in post-1980s popular culture arises from the 1950s photos rather than the woman herself, so there wasn't much to really say about that period of her life.

2 September, 2006

Review: 'Angel-A' (2005)

It'd be unlike me to recommend a sentimental romantic comedy, but that's precisely what I'm doing.

22 June, 2006

Review: War Of The Worlds (2005)

That was odd.  For a lightweight blockbuster, it was almost experimental, but in my opinion, the experiment failed.

31 May, 2006

Review: The Double Life Of Véronique (1991)

Two identical women, Weronika and Véronique, lead entirely separate lives in Poland and France.

It's lazy to criticise the Hollywood stereotype, but there are only so many ways one could imagine the US focus group-led studio system developing that concept, and none of them would match the direction taken by Krzysztof Kieślowski.

26 May, 2006

Review: 'The Princess And The Warrior' (2000)

It's a dilemma.  The best films tend to be the unhyped ones, which one can approach afresh, yet one has to hear about them somehow in order to watch them at all.

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spot that though I hadn't heard of a film about to be shown on TV, 'The Princess And The Warrior' was by Tom Tykwer, the director of 'Lola Rennt' ('Run Lola Run'), and starred Franka Potente (Lola herself).  That was reason enough to video it, and I watched it last night.

20 May, 2006

Review: Stupid Dream reissue (Porcupine Tree, 2006)

It's here.  After having been out-of-print for about four years (blame Atlantic/Warner/Lava), Porcupine Tree's most highly-sought album, 'Stupid Dream' is back on sale, as a shiny new remix/remaster.

18 May, 2006

Review: The Black Hole (1979)

This was one of my formative cinematic experiences when it was first released.  Though a Disney film, with overly cute robots, it's also the first Disney film to have received a 'PG' rating, and my parents may have been slightly misled about its suitability for an eight-year old child.  At that age it rather scared me, and I still remember it with visceral unease, but seeing the film was also a landmark event probably determining my subsequent interest in sci-fi (another was reading Robert Westall's 'Futuretrack 5').

16 April, 2006

Review: 'The Difference Engine' (William Gibson & Bruce Sterling, 1990)

Having completed this a few minutes ago, for the third time since 1992, I still don't 'get' it.

5 April, 2006

Serial cinema

As I said, I've seen five films at the cinema within in the past fortnight, and one was 'Brokeback Mountain'.  The others were:

26 February, 2006

It's in here somewhere...

These carbon-based data storage/display devices are great for most purposes, but books could do with a decent search utility.  Maybe in version 2.

25 February, 2006

Review: Heavy Metal (1981)

'Heavy Metal' is an animated portmanteau film, eight short stories framed and interlinked by a ninth.  It has a notoriously bad script, and didn't fail to disappoint.  It seems the concept of an 'adult cartoon' hadn't fully evolved by 1981, and the target audience must have been juvenile stoners for whom nudity and trippy visuals would adequately carry the feeble story.  In that sense, it was dire.
However, I rented it for two reasons, both basically just curiosity.

13 February, 2006

Review: 'Aguirre: The Wrath Of God' (1972)

The opening scene, of an expedition decending a near-vertical Andean path, was visually stunning, but from then on....
This was rated by IMDb users as one of the top 250 films of all time (no.220), the greatest of Werner Herzog's collaborations with Klaus Kinski, but I really don't understand why.

9 February, 2006

Review: 'The Baroque Cycle' (Neal Stephenson, 2003-4)

Neal Stephenson is one of my favourite authors, so I bought the first volume of his Baroque Cycle, 'Quicksilver' within a fortnight of its publication in paperback (I rarely buy hardback novels).  Unfortunately, it didn't grab me to the same extent as his earlier, cyberpunk, novels, and the dense references to a historical period of which I knew little were somewhat off-putting.  In short, I thought it hard work, even boring.

31 December, 2005

Review: The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)

As mentioned, I saw this at the cinema last night.  It was excellent, not least because two of my minor concerns were unfounded:

30 December, 2005

Review: Mixed Company (Fish, 2003)

There's something I have to state up-front: Fish's voice was bad at these concerts (Muziekcentrum, Enschede, The Netherlands on 28 & 29 June, 2002); not only is it odd to hear an older voice performing songs made famous by a young voice, it's often quite painful to hear him struggle to sing at all.  On the 'Candlelight In Fog' 'official bootleg', similar vocal problems are easily balanced by increased spoken banter with the audience, but that's missing from 'Mixed Company'.  Whether his vocal problems disturbed the concentration of Fish and the band, or they were under-rehearsed, the recording includes a few rather severe errors, primarily Fish forgetting the lyrics.

26 December, 2005

Catching up with the flow, II

In March, I joined Amazon DVD Rental.  At the end of July, I commented on those I'd seen in the first four months.  Since then, I've seen:

19 December, 2005

Four quick reviews

I've seen numerous films recently, but want to comment briefly on four:

18 December, 2005

Review: 'Stamping Butterflies' (Jon Courtenay Grimwood, 2004)

I picked up a copy of 'Lucifer's Dragon' from the sci-fi display table in Waterstone's Lancaster in 1998, drawn by the intriguing description on the front cover (of the NEL edition): 'The cybershock sensation'.  It's one of the few occasions when I've bought a book without prior knowledge of it, solely on the strength of the cover.  I did enjoy it, mainly for the pacing and richness of the cyberpunk concepts, but the number and aggression of the sex scenes felt a little juvenile.

11 December, 2005

Review: 'A Hat Full Of Sky' (Terry Pratchett, 2004)

Best Discworld novel yet?  Difficult to say; I only finished 'A Hat Full Of Sky' about 15 minutes ago, so my judgement might be impaired.  It's certainly one of the funniest, with at least five 'laughing-too-hard-to-breathe' moments.

12 November, 2005

Review: 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' (1988)

I wrote this series of rather disjointed thoughts about The Unbearable Lightness of Being several months ago (July?), but somehow never went back to redraft a coherent review.  I don't know when I'll find the time/motivation to do that, so I'll just post it as-is.

7 November, 2005

Review: 'Blood: The Last Vampire' (2000)

If anyone's tempted to watch this anime film because of the connection to Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, Avalon), as I was, there are two points of which to be aware.

8 October, 2005

Review: Constantine (2005)

If one doesn't expect too much, one can't be disappointed.

On those terms, this was a pretty good film - on those terms.

'Damned with faint praise', eh?

23 September, 2005

Review: 'Tape' (2001)

Sometimes, one can discover a good film, book or album 'cold', knowing nothing whatsoever about it and hence avoiding all hype.  It's difficult to believe now, but for me, 'The Matrix' was one; when I first saw it at the cinema, I had no prior knowledge or expectations, so was blown away from the opening shot.

18 September, 2005

Review: Code 46 (2003)

I don't remember when I heard about 'Code 46', nor why I added it to my Amazon DVD Rental queue; when it reached the head of the list and Amazon notified me it had been despatched, I didn't even recognise the title.  However I came to see it, I'm glad I did.

10 September, 2005

Review: Troy (2004)

Having watched this last night, I really can't be bothered to expend more than three words in reviewing it (not counting this preamble, obviously):

Lightweight.  Throwaway.  Yawn.

31 July, 2005

Catching up with the flow

Since I signed up to Amazon's DVD Rental service in March, I've seen quite a few films, quite apart from those on TV or at the cinema.  I haven't had time to comment on many, but if only for my own reference, these are the films I've rented from Amazon over the past five months:

25 July, 2005

Review: 'Cypher' (2002)

There are some things one just can't polish....

I really liked 'Cube', its less-than-wonderful dialogue and acting carried by a stunning concept.  The necessities of a low budget also accentuated the claustrophobia without highlighting the fact they could only afford a very restricted set!

25 July, 2005

Review: Shiver (John Wesley, 2005)

The executive summary:  I like this album*.  It's not a major departure from Wes' earlier albums (thankfully), and the material isn't the most challenging (to the listener), but so what?  Wes' heartfelt delivery is well-suited to his own slightly melancholic rock and his playing is as good as always.

1 July, 2005

Review: 'Three Colours: Blue' (1993)

I saw this a couple of nights ago, and frankly didn't 'get' it.  It seemed a little slow and inconclusive.  However, it's stayed with me more than most films, and in retrospect I'd strongly recommend it.

26 June, 2005

Review: 'Saw' (2004)

I don't like supernatural horror films, particularly the 'slasher' or 'monster' types, so it's perhaps surprising that several of my favourite films are in the psychological 'serial killer' horror genre: 'Cube', 'Se7en', 'The Cell', and now 'Saw'.

8 June, 2005

Review: Utz (Bruce Chatwin, 1988)

I'm off to Prague next week, so thought I'd better read something relevant!

30 April, 2005

Review: Parachutes (Coldplay, 2000)

Well, that's 42 minutes I'll never get back.  I won't compound the error by writing a long review.

Dull.  Whiny.  No.  Just no.

25 March, 2005

Review: 'The Crow: City Of Angels' (1996)

'The Crow' set the standard for dark, violent comic-book film adaptations in 1994 and rapidly became a cult classic, not least for giving Goths an action (anti-)hero.  The acting, at least of the leads, and atmospheric production style successfully carried a strong, if rather simplistic story, whilst subplots added humanity.  Even if only for the visual side, it's a 'must-see' film.

'The Crow: City Of Angels', though....

20 March, 2005

Review: Alexander (2004)

As I said, I saw this film at the cinema last night.  Though this review is probably influenced by the poor circumstances of its showing, I do think my inability to suspend disbelief and be drawn into the narrative was primarily a fault of the film itself.

In summary, I didn't rate the film at all, and rather regretted giving it three hours of my life.

13 March, 2005

Review: Spiderman 2 (2004)

I signed up to Amazon's DVD Rental scheme last week (four DVDs per month for £7.99 is pretty good), and watched my first this evening: 'Spiderman 2'.

13 March, 2005

Review: The Aviator (2004)

I saw 'The Aviator' last night, at The Dukes, and enjoyed it.  I didn't know much about the era, so found that interesting, and both the production and acting were good.  One minor negative point was the repeated use of an odd lighting effect reminiscent of theatre lights brightening at the start of a scene in a stage play; I presume there was some deliberate stylistic reason, but I'm afraid it eluded me.

1 December, 2004

Review: The Village (2004)

Just back from the having seen 'The Village' at The Dukes.  I know, I know; the rest of the world probably saw it months ago, but it's fairly easy to predict which films will eventually reach The Dukes, and I prefer to wait and watch films on the biggest screen north of Manchester.  I've never understood the need to have or see the latest big thing at the very earliest opportunity.

14 October, 2004

Review: Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do (Sigur Rós, 2004)

This EP (mini-album?) has been mentioned frequently in a number of music discussion groups I visit.  Typical conversations might be summarised as:
"I understand this is different to their earlier albums; what's it like?"
"It's... different."

I thought I'd better elaborate on that!

27 August, 2004

Review: Blackfield - international edition (Blackfield, 2004)

I reviewed the album itself in February when it was first released in Israel, so won't discuss it again here, other than to highly recommend it!
Those familiar with SW's work on Porcupine Tree's 'Lightbulb Sun' (but not really 'In Absentia') will notice obvious similarities, though Aviv Geffen's (remarkably similar) style has resulted in drastically shorter, more radio-friendly songs.

7 July, 2004

Review: Marillion, Manchester Academy, 1 July, 2004

Though I'm very familiar with all of their official albums and have heard over sixty unofficial concert recordings (not bootlegs!), this was the first time I'd seen Marillion live, in person, so I was understandably excited.

30 June, 2004

Review: Unreleased Electronic Music Vol.1 (Steven Wilson, 2004)

As mentioned in April, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Bass Communion, IEM, Blackfield, No-Man, etc.) has released a special album of his more beat-driven electronic music, previously unreleased but mentioned in interviews.  Overall, this has several of the elements I like in the Bass Communion and IEM projects, but the inclusion of catchy, almost danceable rhythms renders this more immediately accessible than those albums.  I already rate it as one of my favourite non-Porcupine Tree SW albums.

29 June, 2004

Review: Paycheck (2003)

I visited J and Fiona on Saturday, ostensibly to watch a DVD with them, but mainly to just catch up with them after their holiday in Ontario.  For some reason, I found the title of their chosen DVD, 'Paycheck', misleading, even discouraging.  I think I somehow equated it with 'Phone Booth', a film I have no particular interest in seeing.
Yet some of my favourite films have been those about which I knew virtually nothing in advance, no preconceptions raising expectations to be disappointed, nor plot details revealed out of sequence.  It's difficult to believe given the subsequent acclaim, but when I first saw 'The Matrix', I knew absolutely nothing about it, and was totally blown away; I went back to the cinema the very next evening, which I'd never done before, nor since.

'Paycheck' isn't great, but I did enjoy it, and recommend it to others.  It's slightly odd that I hadn't heard anything about it beforehand, which rather implies it went 'straight to DVD' here in the UK.  If there's any purpose to this review, it's to bring the film to wider attention.

3 May, 2004

Review: 'The Human Front' (Ken Macleod, 2001)

An enjoyable novella, very much in Macleod's usual style combining socialist politics and everyday life in a very credible alternative post-1945 history, but the abrupt shift to the introduction of more cliched 'high sci-fi' elements (flying saucers, interplanetary flight, time travel and interdimensional parallel timelines) was a little disappointing.  Those first three cliched aspects also appear in his 'Engines Of Light' trilogy (2,3), though are are better justified and mentioned only very briefly in the back story, so are successfully integrated.

22 April, 2004

Review: Yojimbo (1961)

In my account of the key incident, I mentioned I was on my way to the cinema.  The film was 'Yojimbo', shown at the Dukes.  A subtitled Japanese black & white film made in 1961, it's unsurprising that I went alone, but to those who have heard of Akira Kurosawa, it's considered one of his best films, so the cinema was about half full; pretty good for a Tuesday evening.

13 April, 2004

Review: Marbles (Marillion, 2004)

Okay; having dealt with the lavish presentation, does the music match it?

In general, I'd say 'Marbles' is the most consistently satisfying Marillion album of recent years, with fewer (if any) weak tracks than it's predecessors.  Yet the converse also applies: while the low points aren't so low, the high points possibly aren't so high.  I'm listening to the album for the seventh or eighth time whilst writing this and the music is still growing on me, so perhaps it's too early to say.  Right now, I doubt I'd play either of the CDs specifically to hear one particular track, but I am highly likely to play the whole album without skipping tracks, which has to be a recommendation!

12 April, 2004

Review of Marillion 'Marbles' artwork, pt.2

Continued from here, this is the other half of my review of the artwork on the deluxe campaign edition of 'Marbles':

10 April, 2004

Out-floyding the Floyd: review of Marillion 'Marbles' artwork

The latest Marillion album, 'Marbles' has just come through my letterbox.  Wahey!

It'll take me a while to assimilate and review the music, and I'm sure several other people will be offering reviews too, so I'll start with a different aspect: the artwork and packaging design.  [Update: the music review is here.]

8 April, 2004

Review: 'Model Behaviour' (Jay McInerney, 1998)

I may be the wrong person to review this book.  Returning from Wales on Tuesday, I faced a two hour train journey with nothing to read, so my mother lent me whatever she happened to have in the house.  If I'd seen 'Model Behaviour' in a bookshop, I wouldn't have given it a second glance, but it's good to try something different occasionally.

7 April, 2004

Review: Life For Rent (Dido, 2003)

I really enjoyed Dido's debut album, 'No Angel' (2000), her ethereal voice combining with unexpectedly complex trip-hop rhythms, particularly on such tracks as 'Hunter' and 'Thank You' (as sampled by Eminem) and carrying lyrics with at least a hint of substance.

4 April, 2004

Review: Spirals In Hyperspace (Ozric Tentacles, 2004)

This is probably going to be a common comment in reviews of 'Spirals In Hyperspace': if you're already an Ozric Tentacles fan, you'll probably like the new album.  The obvious subtext is that this is 'more of the same', and adds little to the band's existing catalogue.  It's one of their best, but mightn't draw in many new fans.

In theory, this should be radically different to all foregoing releases, as it's an Ed Wynne solo album in all but name.  Of the current nominal lineup of the band, Zia and Seaweed only appear on one track, John only on that same track and one other, and Schoo only on those two plus a third.  In terms of writing, three tracks are credited to the band, one to Ed and Merv, and the remaining five to Ed alone.  As always, Ed was also the recording engineer and producer, working from his own studio (I think) in Somerset.  The artwork isn't explicitly credited, but includes five Erpman doodles by... guess who.  Breaking from this trend, Ed doesn't play glide bass on 'Chewier', nor 'spikes' (techno sounds) on 'Plasmoid'.  No, they're provided by a totally different person, Brandi Wynne... er, Ed's wife.

19 March, 2004

Review: Cold Mountain (2004)

I rather enjoyed this film last night, though it did feel long, at 152 mins.  I haven't read the book yet, so can't comment on the quality of the transition, but as a 'standalone' film, I thought it worked fairly well.  It certainly wasn't flawless, but nothing particularly detracted from my overall enjoyment.  For example, there was little suspense about the eventual outcome, but somehow that didn't matter.  It was a bit 'pretty' in places.  In particular, Nicole Kidman's makeup, hair and tailoring were a little too perfect.

10 March, 2004

Link to review: 'In Absentia' DVD-A (Porcupine Tree, 2004)

Porcupine Tree's 'In Absentia' DVD-A is due out today (though my copy hasn't arrived from Burning Shed yet*...).  I may offer my own review after I've heard the DVD, but I know next to nothing about the technical issues of surround mixes and I'm not a musician, so my comments would be purely as a listener.  For a more detailed review, try this one at, which also features an extended interview with Steven Wilson on the project and future plans for Porcupine Tree.

*: Having just checked the Burning Shed site, I see the release date has been moved to 16 March!  Waa!  Several other retailers have already been despatching it; it's even no.2 in the DVD-A chart. (Update: 11/03/04: No.1!)

6 March, 2004

Review: Mezzanine (Massive Attack, 1998)

From the album cover onwards, there's something slightly unsettling about this album; the beetle on the cover is sleek and shiny, but also heavily distorted, and when the booklet is opened, is much larger than originally thought; somewhat daunting.

26 February, 2004

Review: Arcadia Son (IEM, 2001)

The IEM, or 'Incredible Expanding Mindf**k' is one of several side projects of Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Bass Communion), exploring SW's interest in experimental music, specifically inspired by cosmic jazz and krautrock.  Overall, the  music is almost entirely instrumental, but as one would expect from SW, heavily textured, with odd production effects and samples.

25 February, 2004

Review: 'Hallucinating' (Stephen Palmer, 2004)

As I mentioned last month, a new sci-fi book has been released recently: 'Hallucinating', by Stephen Palmer.

24 February, 2004

Review: several albums by Fairport Convention

I discovered Fairport Convention in the mid-90s via the Jethro Tull connection, which was particularly strong at that time.  All but one member of Fairport had also recorded and appeared live with Tull in recent years (Dave 'Peggy' Pegg 1979-95, Martin 'Maart' Allcock 1988-91, Ric Sanders 1991, Dave 'DM' Mattacks 1992).  Fairport had also supported Tull on tour in 1987 and '88, whilst Ian Anderson and Martin Barre had appeared with Fairport at their Cropredy Festivals in 1987 & '89.

14 February, 2004

Review: Field Of Crows (Fish, 2003)

It's arrived!  I said I was going to wait for reviews and audio samples before buying Fish's latest studio album, rather than buying it 'blind' on the release date, as I have in the past.  The fan reviews have been favourable, and it's been encouraging to note that they specifically mention that the aspects of 'Fellini Days' (2001) I disliked haven't been repeated, so I went ahead and ordered a copy from Fish, having not heard the samples after all.

The following review is being written as I listen to the album for the very first time; it'll be interesting to see whether my views change after repeated plays.

13 February, 2004

Review: Blackfield (Blackfield, 2004)

Having repeatedly listened to the entire album at Walla! *, I really like what I hear, and will definitely buy it when released in the UK.  Though the online tracks are in a fairly low-resolution format, with significant digital distortion, the quality is certainly sufficient to showcase excellent music.

28 January, 2004

Radical guitar design

Ulrich Teuffel, German luthier (guitar-maker) discusses the evolution of the electric guitar at his website.  Some fascinating observations.

13 January, 2004

Review: 'Microserfs' (Douglas Coupland, 1995)

Having recently read this for the third time, I'm still undecided about this book.  It's written in the first person, essentially as a diary, so I'm unsure whether the written style is contrived, being that of the narrator, or whether that's just the way Coupland was naturally writing at the time.

10 January, 2004

Review: Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (Liquid Tension Experiment, 1999)

Another band sampled because it was mentioned favourably at the PT-Trans discussion group, this album
wasn't quite what I expected.  I'd anticipated something fairly structured and 'heavy', essentially an instrumental version of Dream Theater, since the line-up was three members of that band, plus Tony Levin.  If it wasn't for the vocals & lyrics, I might appreciate Dream Theater more, so this seemed a safe purchase.

3 January, 2004

Review: 'The Fifth Elephant' (Terry Pratchett, 1999)

I've just finished reading this for the second, maybe third time.  It's my favourite Discworld novel, superior because the characters are more three-dimensional, more realistic, less cartoonish.

30 December, 2003

Review: Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson 2003

Some would say I didn't give Ian Anderson's 'Rupi's Dance' and Jethro Tull's 'The christmas Album' (both 2003) a fair chance, but sometimes I know I won't like something from the very first time I hear it.  I also have a lot of experience of other Anderson/Tull albums, so have a head start on judging something new.

30 December, 2003

Review: Entering The Spectra (Karmakanic, 2002)

Fan reviews of this hard-to-find solo album from TFK's Jonas Reingold were largely favourable, generally describing it as a heavier version of the Flower Kings; indeed, most members of TFK appear on various songs, amongst other guest musicians.  This sounded like something I'd particularly enjoy, so I managed to obtain a copy; it took something like two months for Amazon to order one for me.

30 December, 2003

Review: Dead Air For Radios (Chroma Key, 1998)

After hearing the excellent 'Office of Strategic Influence' album by OSI, I was interested in the music of each of that project's members.  I'd already tried, and not particularly liked, Dream Theater, and came to much the same conclusion when I finally heard a couple of Fates Warning concert recordings, but Kevin Moore's 'Chroma Key' was a real find.  'Dead Air For Radios' (1998) is now one of my favourite albums.

26 December, 2003

Review: Unfold The Future (The Flower Kings, 2002)

This was actually a late 2002 release, but I bought it at the start of 2003, so think of it as a 2003 album.  I've liked virtually all earlier TFK albums; not every track on every album, but each has had 2-3 outstanding songs I've played repeatedly.  'Unfold The Future' has nothing like that.  There's far too much 'freeform jazz' for my taste, and insufficient accessible, riff-led rock; the combination of the two had been excellent on previous albums, but I don't think the balance is quite right this time.

25 December, 2003

Review: Belleville Rendez-vous (2003)

Belleville Rendez-vous was BBC2's main early-evening film for christmas day; a French/Belgian/Canadian/British animation with very little dialogue, and that mostly in unsubtitled French.  I mightn't have watched it if it hadn't been recommended by Al, who saw it at The Dukes cinema a couple of weeks ago.

25 December, 2003

Review: To Watch The Storms (Steve Hackett, 2003)

As usual for a Hackett album, I found this very mixed - some tracks I liked immensely from the first play, others I didn't, and still others have emerged on repeated listening.  One of the many favourable aspects of Hackett's work is that each time I play one of his albums, the experience is different - I fix on some aspect I'd missed the last time; often that same aspect doesn't sound so special the next time, but that keeps things fresh too!

23 December, 2003

Cover bands - not here, thanks.

We've been asked to help promote a Jethro Tull tribute band, by mentioning it at the Ministry.  Whilst I intend no criticism of a band I haven't heard, that's an important point - I don't think it's reasonable to ask us to recommend a band without having heard them first.
A more significant reason is that I just don't like the very idea of tribute bands.

21 December, 2003

Review: The Lord Of The Rings (2001-3)

I haven't had reason to mention it in the blog yet, but I design, sculpt and paint miniatures, aka 'toy soldiers' in my spare (ha!) time; okay, I've won awards for it.  Because they're in a sci-fi, occasionally fantasy, genre, people keep mentioning the 'Lord Of The Rings' (LOTR) films.  To forestall such enquiries about 'The Return Of The King', here's my review:

24 November, 2003

Review: 'American Gods' (Neil Gaiman, 2001)

Over the weekend, I read this novel; all 632 pages in about four sittings, which should give a clear idea of its draw.

20 November, 2003

New musical discovery

I've heard a few mentions of a band called 'Pineapple Thief' at Porcupine Tree-related discussion groups. Initially, I though it was an in-joke nickname for P-Tree itself, but I gradually realised that it's a band in its own right, and that the mentions by P-Tree fans were unfailingly positive; someone cited the latest album, Variations On A Dream this morning as his album of the year. I had to follow up that lead. The band's website has audio samples and an online shop offering better prices than Amazon, with free delivery worldwide.

11 November, 2003

Review: The Matrix: Revolutions

I was at the cinema last night, to see 'The Matrix: Revolutions'. The original is one of my favourite films, but I've yet to hear a good review of this, the second sequel, so my expectations weren't high.

27 October, 2003

Poor little Delerium!

Here's my picture of the year. A surprising choice?

23 October, 2003

No skipping!

It seems I've just exceeded my allocation of 400 tracks played via LAUNCHcast this month, so I get them at low bandwidth, in mono, without the ability to skip those I dislike, until the end of the month. The playlist seems to have shrunk, too, unless it's just coincidence that 3 of the last 5 tracks have been from the same album (Jethro Tull, 'Roots to Branches'), and the remaining two were from the same album (Pink Floyd, 'PULSE').
The alternative would be sign up to the subscription service - high bandwidth, no repetitive ads (which are all US anyway, so utterly pointless in the UK) and unlimited skipping.
But the 'service' isn't available outside the USA, at any price. Thanks, Yahoo!

22 October, 2003

Caveat Emptor

That's Latin, that is. Means 'buyer beware', and would be advice for those using Amazon UK's 'Marketplace' facility.

In principle, it's a good system, whereby an item's page on the Amazon site offers the new item direct from Amazon at one price, plus an opportunity to buy it from other Amazon users instead, typically second-hand and hence cheaper. The transaction is covered by Amazon's usual terms and secure payment software, and the independent sellers are supposed to offer the same standard of service as Amazon itself; the item should be dispatched within 1-2 days. The main attraction for me is that sometimes a third party seller immediately has an item that Amazon might take 4-6 weeks to find, if ever.

13 October, 2003

What to write?

William Gibson on why he doesn't write short stories:

"Good ones are to novels as bonsai are to trees. Might as well go ahead and grow the tree. It’s easier to pay the rent with trees."

Good training, though.

NP: Coldplay, 'Everything's Not Lost' (on LAUNCHcast - the first and possibly last time I've listened to an entire Coldplay song. Bland.)

10 October, 2003

LAUNCHcast at Yahoo!

Just found LAUNCHcast web radio (at Yahoo!). I've never really listened to web radio before, due to a combination of having to pay for internet access from home and having musical tastes that aren't exactly compatible with standard radio playlists! I get free better-than-broadband internet access at work, and this station allows a lot of customisation, so I get to hear artists I choose to hear. Importantly, I don't get to choose the running order or specific tracks, so there's an element of surprise, and additional artists are thrown in which I haven't selected, so I get to hear music new to me.

9 October, 2003

By the numbers

Copyright National Express - reproduced for reviewI was stuck behind a National Express coach on my way home from work a few minutes ago; slow traffic provided plenty of time to study the company's new (to me, anyway) logo, a prime example of corporate blandness.
A red circle overlapping a larger blue circle on a white background, with a curved 'freehand' white arrow linking the circles. The tail of the arrow makes the red circle 'smile', whilst the upward curve of the arrow is a similar cliche indicating positivity. The arrow links the smaller red circle (you are here) to the larger blue circle (the world), indicating "we'll take you places". The red, white & blue colour scheme reinforces the 'national' element of the UK company.
All very inoffensive, as design-by-committee tends to be, but hardly inspiringly creative.
The typography is quite good on the website (though not 'in the field', on the coach itself), with the word 'National' being as long as the graphic element is wide, and the larger 'Express' off to the side in a welcome break from the obvious.

NP: Sigur Rós, Boston, USA, 15/03/03

7 October, 2003

New Fish songs

Earlier, I was listening to a recording of Fish's 31/05/03 show in Tranent, UK, which included two new songs, presumably intended for his next album, 'Field Of Crows'.
Sorry to say, I wasn't particularly impressed by the unofficial preview. The new pieces, 'Numbers' and 'Zoo Class' sounded very much like tracks from a 'Fellini Days Part 2' album i.e. they have a very similar feel to the 2001 album, which itself seemed to be missing some 'spark' that could have elevated it from 'not bad' to his earlier 'very good/excellent'. A weakness of the new material is an apparent over-reliance on just repeating the title. I really hope it's only because he's still working on the lyrics!

[Update 14/2/04: See my review of 'Field Of Crows'.]

NP: Marillion, Geleen, The Netherlands, 04/05/02

5 October, 2003

NP: Enigma - MCMXCaD

Heh. I have happy memories of this one, which I'm not about to share with the world ;)

I picked up the 'Limited Edition' CD in a sale yesterday. It includes four 'bonus' remixes of tracks from the standard album, but I'm not convinced that they add much to what is already a nicely self-contained package.

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