Monday, January 24, 2005

Slash Deprivation Solution

VELVET REVOLVER, HAMMERSMITH APOLLO

Two weeks after seeing Velvet Revolver at their first Hammersmith Apollo gig, my friend Amy began to develop a dangerous form of SDS (Slash Deprivation Syndrome), which, for all you Essex boys out there, is not a reference to an insatiable desire to urinate but to an insatiable desire to occupy the same room as the former Guns'N'Roses guitarist. Fearing for her continued sanity and mental health, she anxiously perused Ebay in a quest to find available tickets for the second of the Hammersmith Apollo performances. Unfortunately, only paired tickets were affordable, putting her in the unenviable position of being forced to bring me along.

Arriving at 6:45 after some magnificent car navigation from Brighton and nourishment at the indiscreetly glorified Wetherspoons that is Lloyds, we were delighted to notice that misery specialists Biffy Clyro had been dropped from the list of support acts, leaving just a single obstacle between us and the appearance of Velvet Revolver. However, this obstacle proved to be a redoubtable one.

After entertaining ourselves by watching what appeared to be a constant loop of 'Team America - World Police' adverts on the big screen, The Datsuns, a New Zealand garage rock quartet on an ambitious mission to develop the concept of 'sameyness' beyond Status Quo levels and into hitherto unheard of territory, opened to desultory applause and proceeded to play the same three chord yawnfest in eleven astonishingly similar ways. Excruciatingly, the concluding version somehow managed to occupy seven minutes of agonising ear bleeding hell before the singer admitted defeat after repeated attempts to inject excitement by screeching 'WEOOOOOOOOWWWW!!!' whenever he approached the chorus in the anguished manner of a cat being neutered. Desperate attempts to influence the audience with ludicrous and plainly dishonest propaganda: 'THIS IS MOTHERF****** ROCK AND ROLL!!!' were greeted with stoney silence.

After a sixth attempt to persuade us to attend the forthcoming 'Team America: World Police', greeted with sarcastic cheering and the somewhat disturbing observation by someone in my near vicinity that 'that's an impossible angle for intercourse', apparently completely failing to notice that the fundamental premise of eunoch puppets having sex despite the irreconciliable penetration issues is not *especially* realistic in itself, the waiting for a decent band commenced. And continued for so long that the appearance of a solitary drum tech was greeted with the euphoric applause usually reserved by a Most Haunted audience for any event which carries the most pitifully tenuous possibility of a supernatural cause:

YVETTE: OH MY GOD! OH, MY GOD!!
PHIL: What is it?!? What?!?
YVETTE: I heard....A NOT IMMEDIATELY EXPLICABLE NOISE WHICH ONE IN A MILLION PEOPLE MIGHT, IF PARALYTICALLY DRUNK AND POSSESSING THE MENTAL FACULTY OF A DERANGED GOLDFISH, ASCRIBE TO SUPERNATURAL POLTERGEIST ACTIVITY!!!!
PHIL: OH MY GOD!!!!
DEREK: LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!! BUGGER ME, WHAT WAS THAT?!?
PHIL: WHAT?!?
DEREK: That house over there!!!! It was dark a minute ago and now THERE'S A LIGHT ON IN THE KITCHEN!!
PHIL: Studio historians, help us here!
HISTORIAN: I can confirm that there is a STRONG POSSIBILITY that, at some point, a person DIED IN THIS VERY TOWN! And there is no evidence to suggest that it was not in that VERY KITCHEN!!
ALL: HEEELLLPPP!!!

An hour after the warmly received disappearance of The Datsuns, Velvet Revolver entered the stage to rapturous applause, particularly for Slash, possibly the greatest guitarist ever to not possess a face. Realising too late the inherent danger posed by being five rows back and surrounded by menacing seven foot waistlines, Amy and I were caught up in a thriving mass of humanity sharing the common belief that a blistering torrent of distorted noise can only be satisfactorily received by inflicting, at the very least, terminal injury on anyone unfortunate enough to be around you. We hastily retreated with some difficulty to the outskirts of the moshpit, ironically coinciding our escape with a rare ballad.

Velvet Revolver are a fearsome live proposition, as any band featuring 3/5 of the sadly lamented classic Guns'N'Roses line-up would be expected to be. Lead singer, Scott Weiland, originally of the Stone Temple Pilots, is a strange proposition though, specialising in mysterious streams of consciousness where he attempts to ascribe divine qualities to his art:

SCOTT: People say that rock'n'roll can change the world, y'know, f***, but, f***, f****** people is what it's all about, changing the f****** life of you people, f***, yeah, that's why I f****** do this cos it's f****** amazing how it's greeted and it like enters another dimension and I'm not at all f****** drugged up on every narcotic in the world obviously cos I've packed that s*** in completely hence the dead fish eyes and constant swearing and complete bollocks I'm spouting here and why I can't finish any sentences, but, y'know, f*** that, f*** you, f*** me and f*** f***.

Sadly, although I will be pilloried for saying this by hardcore fans who say 'shut up and stop living in the past!' in a desperate attempt to disguise the fact that the past was superior, the band obstinately refused to delve into the cream of the Guns'N'Roses catalogue, instead restricting themselves to their own (admittedly excellent) material and a number of intriguing covers. All five members displayed astonishing technical skill at times and particularly Slash, rare amongst talented lead guitarists in that he is content to restrict his solo ventures to under a minute. 'Slither' and 'Fall To Pieces', signature songs from Contraband, were particularly excellent, the former displaying a completely mastery of the sledgehammer riff and the latter an equally dominant mastery of the anthemic ballad. Unfortunately the sound quality in the Hammersmith Apollo was dire, unable to withstand the ferocity of the rhythm section and drowning a number of Slash's more discreet single-string wanderings in a tirade of white distortion, which though not terminal to the performance by any means was deeply irritating. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that with superior sound quality and, subjectively, renditions of November Rain and Paradise City, the display would have been near perfect.

Ed's Rating: 9/10

Ed's Mood: Euphoric

Ed's Incessant Auto-Repeat Musical Tip: Velvet Revolver - Slither


Saturday, January 15, 2005

House Of Flying Dire Metaphors

I realised my prospects for the oncoming term were bleak when our supposed 'Literature, Media and Modern Culture' seminar 'tutor' decided to shamelessly confess that she 'knows nothing about film theory and media terminology'. Somehow she managed to overwhelm even this horrifying admission with the preposterous suggestion that we 'use [our] media expertise to inform her'. This statement is doubly ridiculous - a) it assumes that we've built up a foundation of knowledge, as opposed to knowing concepts for exactly as long as it takes to write an essay about them and forgetting about them immediately afterwards and b) that 90% of English and Media students are actually going to consider contributing vocally to a seminar. A truly ludicrous idea.

As part of this nebulously titled course an extremely reluctant contingent of students was forced to endure the hollow 'comedy' of Charlie Chaplin, surely the most spectacular unfunny comic creation ever. 'Modern Times', an epic film stretching over several millennia, was supposedly a humorous indictment of modernity and the industrialisation of the world. Well, it may have been humorous in 1936 prior to the invention of the joke anyway. Charlie Chaplin must have been the most optimistic man alive to believe that the sole remedial features of a) a stupid moustache and b) an idiotic walk would remain funny for ninety minutes of truly agonising cinematic excretion. Or indeed for 70 years of truly agonising cinematic excretion.

Continuing this theme, here's my (extremely subjective, prejudiced and transparently biased, just like all good film critics) opinion of two recent cinematic releases. And warning, these contain a vast number of spoilers:

HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS

If you enjoyed the Matrix series, this film provides essential viewing material. The phenomenal action sequences within this film feature some truly mesmerising cinematography as a supposedly blind woman fends off hordes of sword wielding assassins armed only with her instincts and an impossibly accurate throw. However, the plot is ridiculous - and the dialogue far worse. In fact, my award for Most Blatant Overuse Of A Damn Stupid Simile 2004 goes to this film. For some mysterious and baffling reason the writer has the bewildering idea that 'free like the wind' is both an original and an intelligent simile. Using it once is foolhardy. Using it twice is painful. Using it repeatedly and concentrating the entire moralistic value of the film around it is plain infuriating:

HERO: So why are you called that idiotic name of yours?
HEROINE: Because I want to be free...like the wind! Fly...like the bird! Brighten the world... like the sun! Live forever... like the angels! Insert....moronic simile here!
HERO: Oh. Deep. How do we escape from the sword wielding assassins?
HEROINE: Be free... like the wind! Run...like the cheetah!
HERO: Genius. Why did you remove that dagger from your heart and throw it arbitrarily at a tree, thereby causing yourself terminal blood loss when the rational thing to do would be to wait until I finish killing this bloke I've been in hilariously overdone non-stop hand-to-hand combat with for the last year or so and then allow me to dress your wound and save your life?
HEROINE: Because I wanted to be free... like the wind! And ensure a suitably formulaic and depressing... pseudo-arty conclusion to this film!
HERO: Oh for CRYING OUT LOUD! Why don't you just roll over and die... like a BAD JOKE! Stop holding up the end credits, this sequence has lasted HALF A BLOODY HOUR NOW. DIE! DIE! DIE!
HEROINE: Don't I get a final pretentious speech crammed full of childish similes and meaningless vacuous metaphors?
HERO: NO!
HEROINE: Oh. (dies in suitably arty pose)

Ed's Summary: Enthralling action sequences and cinematography. Awful dialogue, shallow and formulaic conspiracy plot, unconvincing romance between main protagonists and a very disappointing conclusion.

Ed's Rating: 5.5/10

WHITE NOISE

White Noise is a formulaic psychological thriller about a man's deceased wife attempting to communicate with him via various recording media (cassette tape, video recorder etc). Although genuinely hair-raising and intriguing for a substantial time as the hero realises that the technology is enabling him to become aware of deaths that have not yet occurred but has absolutely no idea how this is happening, the film suffers from two principal maladies. The first of these is Michael Keaton, who brings his own special brand of woodenness to the role and is terminally handicapped by the 'hey look! it's Batman pretending to be a normal guy!' factor (which, admittedly, isn't really his fault). The second of these is yet another diabolical conclusion:

RANDOM BLOKE: Yes, it was me all along! Mwuhahaha! Bet you'd never have guessed that eh??
MICHAEL KEATON: Well, considering that a) you've appeared in the film for all of three seconds before this point, b) I and the audience know absolutely nothing about you whatsoever and c) you're utterly unnecessary and the conclusion could function quite easily without you, it hadn't actually occurred to me, no.
RANDOM BLOKE: But this film needs a villain!
MICHAEL KEATON: Shame the writers only realised that 130 minutes in really wasn't it?
RANDOM BLOKE: Shut up and die without putting up a fight or asking me anything about my motivation, character role, whether I have any kind of real point, the reason why I killed your wife and all the others, etc.
MICHAEL KEATON: Why?
RANDOM BLOKE: COS I DON'T BLOODY KNOW AND THE AUTHORS CAN'T BE ARSED TO USE THEIR INTELLIGENCE TO BRING TOGETHER THE VARIOUS MYSTIFYING NARRATIVE STRANDS IN A COHERENT AND SATISFYING WAY, OKAY?! JUST FIGURE THAT I'M A BOG STANDARD SHALLOW PSYCHO WHO DOESN'T NEED MOTIVATION!!
MICHAEL KEATON: Okay (dies).

Ed's Summary: Intriguing premise which isn't developed as well as is promised throughout the greater part of the film. Terrible conclusion.

Ed's Rating: 7/10

In other news, tonight is 'Lad's Night', taking place at that epic bastion of drinking that is Sussex University Campus. This should promise a number of amusing escapades. Usually I remain reasonably sober while those around me provide all manner of excellent material for one of these entries, so watch this space!

Ed's Mood: Excellent

Ed's Incessant Auto-Repeat Musical Tip: Smashing Pumpkins - Tear

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Capitalist Slugs

Cycling through the archives I was dismayed to find an unfinished post regarding my Hollywood presentation on Will Smith's star persona. I believe I was supposed to be going somewhere with this but unfortunately memory has faded. Real update to follow!

As part of my preparation for my seminar, I decided that I should at least make a token concession to work. Watching Men In Black II beforehand I was struck with misgivings about how exactly to convincingly intellectualise a scene where Will Smith overcomes a giant mutated slug attempting to consume an underground train. Fortunately, numerous ludicrous theories are available to your discerning English and Media student at this point:

MARXIST ANALYSIS: Will Smith's character represents the oppressed masses overcoming the terrifying, all-consuming threat posed by the disgusting 'slug' of capitalism and the business classes.

FEMINIST ANALYSIS: Will Smith's character is a parody of the unconsciously but tangibly patriarchal nature of society, saving the passive female 'passengers' with his superior masculine strength and quickness of thought.

PSYCHOANALYTIC ANALYSIS: Will Smith's character is undergoing an Oedipal trajectory; attacking the father 'slug', defeating the father 'slug' and then replacing the 'slug' in the mother (slug?)'s affections.

GENERAL IGNORANCE DISGUISING BULLCRAP MEDIA JARGON ANALYSIS: Will Smith's transcendent brand identity is particularly apparent in this scene - his charisma, charm, heroism and racial self-awareness all reflect the pre-conceptions created by his constructed image which we as the audience bring to the film.

POST-MODERN ANALYSIS: Will Smith's character resists analysis because REALITY IS FAKE, DUMBARSE REALITY FASCISTS! YAY DISTORTION AND FRAGMENTATION AND ANARCHISTIC BREAK-UP OF EVERYTHING FOREVER AND YAY MADNESS AND DESTRUCTION AND CULTURAL VANDALISM! WOOOOOOHOOOOOOO! ANDY WARHOL ROCKS!

My problem was then eased by me conveniently forgetting the tape of this particular scene. This may have been fortunate, since most theories disintegrate dismally in the face of Will Smith standing in front of a six hundred foot worm and uttering the immortal words: 'Yo! People! There's a BUG! IN! THE! ELECTRICAL! SYSTEM!'. I might have spent two and a half years honing my ability to talk absolute rubbish whilst giving the impression of being extremely knowledgeable and intellectual, but that particular achievement would have been impossible even for an English and Media BA (Bullsh*tting Award) student.

Ed's Mood: Cynical

Ed's Incessant Auto-Repeat Musical Tip: Kasabian - Club Foot