Tuesday, 25 December 2007

A Very Da Vinci Christmas (aka The Da Vinci Code Christmas Special)

PLEASE NOTE: Christmas specials don’t have to make any sort of logical or canonical sense. In fact it's best if they don't.

PLEASE FURTHER NOTE: The above may be compounded a little by the fact I haven't read The Da Vinci Code.

Popular fictional creation Robert Langdon had had a pretty mind-boggling last couple of weeks, what with the deaths and the exotic trans-European travel and the increasingly outlandish conclusions about the Catholic church his research was leading him towards.
“Dammit,” he muttered as he flailed listlessly in the second-class sleeper wagon forced upon him by the weak dollar/strong euro, “it’s Christmas Day and I’m caught up in this far-fetched quest when instead I could be sitting down to a turkey, spending some time with my family, and doing all those great things that we Americans do on Christmas Day.”
He sighed, heavily, and went back to his notes.
“Could he have been saying that... Joseph... was... was a killer robot? Mayb-"
His train of thought was abruptly interrupted by an insipid knocking at the compartment door.
“Mmm?” he responded, with academic distraction.
The door slid back, and for a brief second Langdon forgot all about killer robots. It was none other than the cowled form of Silas, the Opus Dei’s numero uno albino assassin/masochist.
“Shit,” muttered Langdon, “It can’t end like this! Not on this day of all days!”
“Don’t worry,” said the horrifying freak, cheerily, “though I may practise mortification of the flesh, that doesn't mean I don't believe in the magic of Christmas. Also I’m not as bad a guy as you might think – as it turns out the reason I’m killing all those people is... oh, you’ll find out later.”
“Hmm,” replied Langdon, “you’ll forgive me if I don’t trust you, seeing as I find things tend to settle with the least plausible conclusion. Why are you here?”
“Fair question,” nodded Silas. “In fact it’s a complete coincidence, I’m just off to... well, you’ll find out later. Actually I didn’t know you’d be on this train, I suppose it’s just a by-product of reduced Christmas Day service (though at least the Europeans at least have some) that we’ve both ended up here. But it’s good to see you – even homicidal, screwed up albinos get lonely at Christmas.”
“I’m just a bit concerned we wouldn’t really have anything to talk about,” muttered Langdon, cagily.
“Oh, I quite understand,” agreed Silas, helping himself to a seat. “But I think you might like to see this”.
He pulled out a small, vellum-bound book. Yellow and musty, it seemed to have more weight than such a small tome should, as if the centuries themselves were exerting their inexorable pull on an object that, by rights, should not exist in the modern world. It also smelled quite funny. Langdon reached for it with trembling hand.
“My God,” he exclaimed, distaste at the homicidal whackjob sitting opposite him briefly forgotten, “this must be 500 years old if it’s a day! These words... in Latin... it’s; it's a gospel? The gospel of... Bovinae? The cow gospel? The cow... the cow is Mary Magdalene! Does this contain the answers I've been looking for? But... but why?” he asked, saucer-eyed.
“Oh, no, it’s nothing like that," Silas laughed, with just a hint of real merriment. "This is indeed a gospel that the Catholic church suppressed from history, but it's not going to help you; we didn't so much suppress it through a cynical agenda as because it was a ridiculous crock of doggerel only popular with the most pig-ignorant peasants. But it does make for a fun festive read. Shall we?”
“Well,” sighed Langdon, “it is Christmas.”
“Great, I’ll read out loud and translate into fluent English at speed, then.”
"That would make things go easier."


1 And it came to pass that it was really busy in Bethlehem for some reason or other.
2 I think the humans were counting each other, something to do with tax. Animals don’t have to do that, probably because we’re better.
3 The Romans thought it would make much more sense to make everyone shift about the country before they counted them.
5 Not really sure why.
6 So yeah, town was pretty full.
7 And lo! It came to pass that a certain donkey by the name of Donkey had been railroaded into leaving his digs in Nazareth and heading off to Bethlehem.
8 He had a pregnant chick on his back.
9 Despite some sage whinnying on behalf of Donkey, the chick and her fiancé arrogantly refused to make any reservations in advance and found themselves caught short when they got into Bethlehem.
10 Long story short: yours truly was about to chow down on some delicious hay when she went and gave birth all over it.
11 It was disgusting.
12 Afterbirth everywhere.
13 Though you probably didn’t need to know about that
14 Anyhoo, out in the countryside not so far away a bunch of sheep were hanging out, attended by some idiot shepherds.
15 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them and glory shone around. The sheep were pleased as punch, but the shepherds gibbered in fear, for they were sinful miscreants.
16 Fortunately the angel was only really there for the sheep, so it didn’t care.
17 Then the angel said to them: “Hi guys. So there’s a new Messiah coming to Bethlehem – you should check him out.
18 He’s a donkey, but they’re ten a penny in town - this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And the donkey there – well that’s your donkey, basically”.
19 Insensible with fear, the shepherds misunderstood this. I have a feeling it might cause quite a lot of confusion in the long run.
20 Fortunately it put sheep and shepherds on the same page in terms of going to Bethlehem, where they tracked down Donkey and flunkies quickly.
21 The shepherds looked at the baby human, got over-excited, and headed off yapping over-enthusiastically about having seen a baby in a stable.
22 Donkey and entourage stayed a lot longer, mind, during which time Donkey laid out his manifesto to us. I took some notes.
23 You're reading them
24 “Basically we’ll breed shitloads and humanity can look after us, only they’ll sometimes eat us. But not donkeys. Or dairy cows. Or adult sheep. And I’ll ban humans giving birth in our food. And, uh, I'll cut taxes. Sound good?”
25 “Visionary, visionary,” chorused the livestock, who had been looking for just this type of strong leadership.
26 In the meantime the humans had been dicking about in local politics – apparently the Jews were being oppressed by the Romans and the baby was going to do something about it.
27 The animals weren’t so bothered and probably ate some hay, I can't quite remember.

“Wow,” was all a gobsmacked Langdon could exhale.
“I know; you can see why we repressed that shit,” said Silas, allowing genuine merriment to enter his voice for once.
“How deep does this go?” asked Langdon with a feverish gleam in his eyes.
“Well, I think maybe it was St Thomas Aquinas who decided that we might as well suppress it. The peasantry were very ignorant back in the 13th century and some of them were starting to believe in this absurd pamphlet and worshipping farmyard animals in the hope it would lead to lower taxes.”
“No, no – don’t you see? This is conclusive proof God is a woman; no wonder the Catholic Church has been suppressing it.”
“Oh. Right. Well I can assure you that that’s not how it’s seen by Rome.”
“Yeah, but have a look at these blow ups of a painting by Manet,” exclaimed the agitated professor, pulling out a huge sheath of notes from his briefcase. “If you look in the upper right quadr-“.
But as he looked up to share his thoughts with the mysterious monk, he realised Silas had left as mysteriously as he’d arrived. More mysteriously, even. There was no sign of him but for the pungent Gospel. Langdon clutched it close to his chest and closed his eyes.
“Merry Christmas, Silas,” he whispered.
“Huh?” asked Sophie, who had been there all along, only asleep. “Were you talking to someone?”
“Oh Sophie,” he chuckled, ruffling her chic Judeo-Gaellic locks, “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you”.
“Oh, okay then. Look!” she exclaimed, delightedly, “it is snowing outside; joyeux Noel, Robert!”
“Joyeux Noel to you too Sophie. A joyeux Noel to everyone. Even Catholics.”


Saturday, 22 December 2007

What, you haven't seen an albums of the year list before? Fuck you. Fuck you all.

1. of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Proof that moving to Norway, going mental and abandoning your wife and child is a great career move. It's worth it just for the lyrics (check out this slightly unwarrented acoustic version of TPIAGA - www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWIwe4Bu86A), but the music's incredible, kind of like all of Bowie and Prince's good albums mashed together and shot through with unreasonably erudite bitterness. And it would be worth it for The Past Is A Grotesque Animal alone, which is one of the greatest songs everr written. Also the Icons, Abstract Thee companion EP was very good, I hasten to add.

2. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

I suppose if there's anything really wrong with it is that it fundamentally lacks charm, which Funeral had lots of. But I think that was fairly deliberate... it's a bombastic spirituality, and if the music was less good or Win Butler sounded insincere then it'd be horribly pretentious, but I think we need music like this; most people I've met with a problem with this record don't tend to like emotive music, I've noticed. Basically the best bit is where the military choir kicks in (on No Cars Go), and that's almost certainly the only album you can say that about.

3. Radiohead - In Rainbows

It's very good, the digital thingy didn't stop people realising that, good for them, I don't think the world needs a white, middle-class journalist saying anything further.

4. Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Despite topping the US charts etc I kind of think this album's been a bit underrated; it does an amazing job of reconciling mental early MM with the shinyness of Good News... Spitting Venom and Parting Of The Sensory are as progressive and exciting as anything they've ever done, elsewhere it's big, wonky tunes. I do wonder if Johnny Marr's presence has skewed the record in people's minds a bit, but those people are fools, I say.

5. Holy Fuck - LP

Experimental but impeccably dancable seectro violently thumped out by a bunch of thugs - visceral as you like and makes spectacle-wearing men standing behind laptops look foolish. Foolish-er.

6. Kevin Drew - Spirit If...

Again I think maybe a bit of an underrated album - it got good reviews, but I think the fact it's not BSS has maybe caused it to not be taken as seriously as it might. It never actually hits the highs of BSS at their best, but it's not as indulgent, way more focussed, and has a total punch the air (in an anti-phallogocentric stylee) anthem in Backed Out On The...

7. Marnie Stern - In Advance Of The Broken Arm

Finds the perfect balance between noise and a sense of fun. Patterns Of A Diamond Ceiling is
the best piece of avant garde music ever to also sound like Bon Jovi

8. Marissa Nadler - Songs III: Bird On The Water

Fucking dreadful title, but amazing music, lush, spine-tingling American gothic folk songs about, er, well mostly they seem to be about women dying, but hey ho. They die very poetically, and that's what's important.

9. PJ Harvey - White Chalk

Some of the songs are so short that I don't really know that they stand up on their own, but it's her first properly coherent record since Is This Desire?, and the title track is as good a tune as she's ever done. So yeah, she kind of sort of wasted the last ten years, but hey ho, that Spice Girls dress was pretty cool.

10. M.I.A. - Kala

In a weird way I think you could describe this as the hip hop yin to Hissing Fauna's yang, in that both share a sort of day glo, everything but the kitchen sink approach that makes something dense but exotic, tuneful and lush rather than horribly messy. Or you might just say that I know so little about hip hop I'm making lame indie comparisons because I fundamentally lack reference points. Both are good.

The Greatest by Cat Power scoops the award for the 2006 album that I foolishly didn't really get into until 2007 but probably would have made last year' top 10 otherwise. I suspect LCD Soundsystem's Sound Of Silver will do the same for next year. That is all.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The traditional ATP roundup thing. Okay?


The horrible pub in Taunton: was actually brilliant, festively decorated, randomly friendly - good stuff, probably a lot more fun than watching Mark Linkous fall over, which is primarily what we missed.

Thurston Moore: Really nice, actually, I love his solo album Trees Outside The Academy, but it does teeter on the edge of prog, so I'd sort of assumed he'd wank it up outrageously, but he kept his metaphorical schlong away from his actual hand: no SY stuff, just the album played with feeling, and the biggest 'awww' of weekend when he dedicated Fri/End to 'Kim G'

Chrome Hoof: Um. Very odd. Lots of silver clothes and fun masks. No goat demi-god (as I'd been led to believe there might be, pah). I enjoyed it, and I was dancing, but on one level it's basically ludicrously byzantine prog, which being pissed as I was (i.e. really quite) I wasn't so much in the mood for at whatever the fuck time in the morning it was.

Silver Apples: Yeah, I know they invented music or electricity of something, but they seemed a tad shit to me. Though again, see the above comments about drinking.

Later: We fell in with the very drunk children two doors down from us. They did few favours for our impressons of the youth of today, insofar as they were complete and utter n00bs. Their greatest hits could probably be summed up thusly:

1. They had blithely trashed their room, content in the knowledge that one of their number had a magic credit card that would sort everything out. This included drawing on the TV in magic marker (who takes a marker to a festival?), stacking all their beds in precipitous fashion in order to clear the floor for a party they forgot to invite anyone to, and then on the second night somehow smashing their bathroom window from the inside out (with the ceiling fan I think, though fuck knows how), narrowly avoiding inflicting death by glass on me, and I was just walking past at the time.

2. One of them told us he really admired people our age going to festivals. Me and Laura are 26. He was 21. What did he realistically think was going to happen in the next five years?

3. Another of them was too paralytic to do anything but lie of the grass and sort of quietly scream. He may have been my favourite...


Malcolm Middleton: I wonder if the whole We're All Gonna Die Christmas thing might be counterproductive in the long run, but akshuly that song didn't exactly get chanting in the terraces, while a completely new one, Blue Plastic Bags, completely won everyone over by dint of being the most anthemic tribute to British shitness since something or other by Pulp. Not exactly convinced he's an ATP act, but hey ho, it was fun (for us, dunno about him)

GZA: A room full of white people acting all hip hop is pretty funny. Highpoints included the repeated exhortation to 'put your dubyas up in the air' (an endorsement of the Wu Tang rather than George Bush, one suspects), the obligatory fat guy from the posse (he's probably really famous, I'm demonstrating my ignorance again) informing us 'I can smell some cheese', and the fact they were to only act of the weekend to refer to us as 'Minehead' as if it was some sort of magical seaside community full of rabid musos. Oh yeah, it was pretty good, the beats registered more with me than the rapping, maybe I am a racist.

A Hawk And A Hacksaw: It's amazing what a great contrast precision tooled hip hop beats and an old Hungarian dude soloing on a hammered dulcimer can make. Very nice indeed, I'd recommend to anyone.

Glen Branca & The Paranoid Critical Revolution: Despite having the world's most interesting looking guitar (it had a second body in lieu of a head), Branca was a sore disappointment, an old man making shrill tinkling noises. TPCR enlivened the end of the set, but they were excellent on their awn, real driving, rhythic, gutbucket noise. Laura and Tams hated it.

Julian Cope: Horrible prog metal drivvel, is this what having a festish for monoliths does to you? Though I heard an amusing story about why he dislikes a member of Plan B staff, which was nice. Though it didn't encourage me to believe he wasn't a dick.

Portishead: I've repeated this story so many times that even I'm bored of it (that takes a lot) but I was so completely bemused by the very fact they were there that I completely failed to register what was going on for the first three songs and just sort of stared dementedly into space. But then the fourth song was this really beautful, expansive ballad, and then they went straight into Glory Box and it all just clicked - sounding very strong (and not afraid of their past at all, as it had been rumoured...) and at least two of the four new songs tip top - bit faster, bringing a few more influences in that just one gal and some samples. Genuinely quite enthusiastic for the new record.

Jerry Sadowitz: I would call myself a milqetoast liberal for my response if I haven't actually been there, and I totally think comedy should push a few buttons, but this was basically just Sadowitz telling really vile racist jokes for about half an hour and a white middle class predominantly male audience laughing along heartily. Well, actually it was more like ten minutes, because that's when we walked out. And the only thing I've ever walked out of before was a talk by Christine Hamilton. Kiss that, Sadowitz.

Aphex Twin: (technically we saw the end of Om, er, seemed quite nice, which means our righteous ire at Sadowitz must have been running at gigawatt strength, seeing as how their bass frequencies were apparently enough to fell an elephant. Well, two of my mate's friends). Yes. Well, he was very good, was initially slightly worried that sectors of the audience were actually just going to stand there for the entire set stroking their chins and looking like they were doing something important, but it was frenzied as you like by about the hour mark. It would be fairly accurate to say that from about half an hour in me and McLaura were so refreshed that objective comment is quite difficult, but yeah - no mental noise experiments, more electroey than one might have thought (good thing), actually recognised a couple of things from Selected Ambient Works in there... well done, Mr Twin. Only slightly mystifying moment was when two very South West-looking gentlemen took positions on either side of the stage - the levels of irony required for that to be construed as anything other than utterly mystifying were in short supply at a set that started at 1.30am and more or less called for at least a semi-divorce from reality.

Later: Hmm. In retrospect we'd in no way peaked during Aphex himself, and hence the next few hours are fairly confusing, and that's even being pretty sure I remembered what happened.

1. We resolved to go back to the chalet, or possibly to watch to drink in the same room as the Ricky Hatton fight while not actually watching the fight. Either way, they wouldn't let us in to the sports bar because it was too full, which was awkward, because Holly had the only keycard and she was in the sports bar.

2. Me, Laura and Tams stood around in a phone booth out the back while me and Holly formulated a plan on the phone. I don't really know why we had to stand in the phone booth, but hey ho, body heat etc.

3. Holly's plan actually worked, in that there was some sort of anonymous storeroom out the back of the sports bar where we could have a secret rendezvous. Future ATP-goers should note this.
4. Went back to chalet, Tams passed out, me and Laura lay on the bed high as the proverbial kites listening to of Montreal. This confirms my suspicion that there is literally no situation where of Montreal is not appropriate.

5. Went back in to the main area, where I saw the only boxing match I've ever properly watching in my life. Only we turned up so far into round ten that my first question of 'why is Hatton sitting down' was met with the reply 'he's thrown in the towel.' Boxing is weak. Fortunately I was so gone that I was actually dancing to this.

6. Got chucked out for standing on the giant hot air balloon. However, I had managed to score a high visibility jacket by this stage, so nothing could shoot me down. Went back to chalet and shared my opinions on stuff for several hours, only my memory was so shot that my anecdotes all trailed off after ten seconds. That's like krypotonite to me.


John Cooper Clarke: Aside from being generally brilliant, witty, etc, there was a palpable air of informal matiness that made it feel like you were just hanging out with your cool uncle or summat. Well, maybe, I have no idea what that would literally be like, but this was mondo fun; alos very heartening to see a large roomful of festival goers going apeshit over poetry.

Boris: I don't care what anyone says, it's basically Spinal Tap as done by three endearingly enthusiastic Japanese chaps. Very funny, though they blew it at the end slightly by having an ostentatiously massive gong that was completely inaudible. Which is very Spinal Tap, of course.

Black Mountain: The last time I saw Black Mountain they fucked the AC/DC malarkey up so badly that even the quiet songs merely came out as a sort of excruciating vibration. Here, on the hige Pavillion stage they sounded note perfect. The new album is fantastic, shamelessly retro but done by people who belt it out like a slightly nervy indie band, and thus somehow it doesn't seem gratuitous; they did complete justice to it - they closed with Bright Lights, which is the best track on the alb, but also 16-minutes-long and not commercially available yet; nonetheless worked a treat, everyone went apeshit, day won, woo.

Mad Lib Medicine Show: Probably shouldn't have been in an arena. Definitely not an arena full of nerds there to stare rather than dance. Though me and Mark kept it real with a dance off, oh yes.

Team Brick: Basically a special guy being noisy, with about a third of the noise good and the rest special. Naturally he's a Bristol hero.

Fuck Buttons: Ended up playing the slot that had been billed as TBC right up to the Sunday, thus we were getting into a frenzied panic that they might be either My Bloody Valentine or Radiohead. They were very definitely in fact Fuck Buttons, a band who I've accidentally missed on two seperate occasions, which therefore had made me assume they were overrated, as why else would I accidentally miss them. In actual fact brilliant, I can't be arsed to go all journalist, but check 'em out, they're the U2 of noise and may actually become quite popular if people can cope with the daft name (Holy Fuck = correct name for the band; Fuck Buttons = silly hipsterisation)

Aphex Twin (again): The experience of dancing to frenzied gabba while still relatively with it is quite an unusual one... um, I dunno, it was like being in some sort of mental excercise video at three in the morning. I enjoyed it.

And with that we went to bed and dreamt dreams of Pitchfork and Primavera. The end.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Zombie Film Review: Part three of an unexpectedly revived series (though that said - not really about zombies. I don't think)

Name? Rats: Night Of Terror

'Plot'? In a post-apocalyptic future, some bikers, who may or may not be the last human beings alive (if this is the case they're breathtakingly blase about it) turn up at an illogically vast bunker full of food, water, and 'every type of plant'. But gasp! There are freshly killed corpses here. As it turns out they've been done for by a bunch of passive-aggressive rats. Our heroes dick around, meeting the rat 'menace' with a volatile cocktail of mixture of unreasonale cowardice and demented overreaction, best embodied in a scene where the bearded hero/group leader immolates one of his men with a flame-thrower because the flunky has, like, two rats on him. The rats dick around spectacularly, as despite the assertion that they hate human beings, they're generally content to squeak away merrily and not bother people who are actually touching them. Oh yeah, the zombie thing. Well after being bitten in manner that could only be described as 'clearly non-fatal', several of the characters swiftly die. And then wander around for a bit in a quasi-zombified state. One of them inflates to a vast size then explodes with a loud booming noise to reveal several fully grown furry chums inside him, so apparently he's been infected with, um, rat..? Oh yeah, and at the end the two survivors are rescued by humanoid figures in biohazard suits, who turn out to be giant rats. Disturbingly I saw it coming.

How irritating? The token bad apple in the biker gang - a chap by the name of Duke - seems utterly oblivious to the danger, and constant attempts to sabotage the group's every action for his own glorifiaction, despite the fact this vastly increases the chances he might die. Which indeed, he does. He's basically a woefully inadequate replacement for a villain with a personality. The most irritating thing, of course, is that the film refuses to acknowledge how shit the rats are at, er, well to be honest, everything.

Most ridiculous moment? The ending deserves a look in, but actually the most insane scene is rodent-free. In order to shoehorn in the obligatory copulation, early on we see two of the characters having really violent, noisy sex. Only they're doing it in a brightly lit room, with the rest of the gang sitting a metre or so away, reading books and whatnot. Futuristic attitudes towards love-making? Nope: the rest do get pissed off, it's just it takes them about two minutes of the world's loudest sex right in front of their faces before any of them notice anything's amiss.

Most Glaring Plot Flaw? The rats don't eat anything besides humans, which means they would quite blatantly have starved to death years previously. Also they're shit.

How cheap? The main problem is plenty of rats, no animal trainer. The critters are so passive they actually have to be dropped on top of the heroes in order to give the vaguest semblance of attacking (I think it's safe to say a LOT of rats were harmed in the making of this film). That, or a degree of, er, directorial trickery is needed. The best comes near the end, when the rats are smashing down a door. On the heroes' side the frame is reverbrating as if from a hail of hammer blows from Thor himself. Then the camera cuts to the other side and you see some rats, milling around casually in the general vicinty of the door, but not actually touching it.