Saturday 30 November 2013

1981 Rush - Moving Pictures

Rush, 'Tom Sawyer'

Info: Canadian rock band Rush were formed in 1968 and consist of Geddy Lee on vocals and bass, Alex Lifeson on guitar and synthesizer, Neil Peart on drums (replacing John Rutsey in 1974, 2 weeks before their first US Tour) and frontman Jeff Jones on vocals and bass. Rush were at the peak of their powers from the mid-seventies and are best known for their 1976 album 2112, which was followed by a string of successful albums culminating in 1981’s Moving Pictures, essentially flying the flag for classic progressive rock at the dawn of the 80’s. 

After multiple line-up changes the band really took off after Peart replaced Rutsey, who had to quit for health reasons and an aversion to touring. Rush’s self-titled debut album was received indifferently with too many comparisons to early Led Zeppelin, and it wasn’t until Cleveland radio station WMMS started to regularly feature their debut single (a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’) that they began to gain traction. Once their music entered the public sphere they started to gain a legion of blue collar rock fans who appreciated their hard rock sound, this led to them being signed up by American label Mercury Records in 1974.

After expanding their influences, including prog-rock bands Yes, Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, Rush released 2112 which showcased their talents as masters of their individual instruments and gained them mainstream popularity and credibility. A move to the UK in the late seventies completed the metamorphosis and saw the release of critically acclaimed albums A Farewell to Kings (1977) and Hemispheres (1978).

As for the album itself, Moving Pictures, I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable rock albums I’ve come across in the last while, and it surprises me because I often think of the 80’s as the least rock decade. Of course you had the hair bands, such as Def Leppard, Poison, Kix and a load of others (the start of Guns N’ Roses), but what makes Rush’s album stand out is that it’s a mix of ‘traditional’ seventies prog-rock and 80’s synth, but it works, perfectly, no better exemplified than on the third track, the instrumental ‘YYZ’, which goes from solid guitar riffs to slowed down synthesizer and back again. Highlights for me are the opening two tracks, ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Red Barchetta’, but in all honesty, all 7 tracks are very strong and thoroughly enjoyable, it makes me feel like I’m listening to The Eagles’ Hotel California album turned up to 11. Fan of rock music? Check it out.

Track Listing:

1. Tom Sawyer
2. Red Barchetta
3. YYZ
4. Limelight
5. The Camera Eye
6. Witch Hunt
7. Vital Signs

Sunday 24 November 2013

Don Jon (2013)

Don Jon - Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Don Jon, Trailer

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt  
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
My Rating: 8.5/10
Runtime: 90mins

“There's only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.”

Synopsis: A buff, church going barman from New Jersey sleeps with beautiful girls every other night but he has always found more satisfaction in online pornography. The nicknamed ‘Don Jon’ must make some serious changes in his life if intimacy is ever to enter his ‘pad’. 

Don Jon was written and directed by the star of the show, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper, Inception). Gordon-Levitt continues to impress and has, by now, surpassed his image as the sensitive, quirky type. Ever since Looper (2012), Gordon-Levitt has embraced the bad boy appeal and has found himself in more and more versatile roles. 

With Don Jon, Gordon-Levitt takes from his years of acting experience in romantic comedies and subverts the genre completely, resulting in a confident and edgy directorial debut. Shame (2011) dealt with sex addiction in a visceral and sombre light but Don Jon manages to address the issue of porn addiction in a lighthearted way, while maintaining a level of sincerity. 

Stylistically the film is very well edited and derives comedy from repetition. The soundtrack is equally hilarious creating the perfect collection of sound cues to mark Don Jon’s manly routine. It’s a highly enjoyable film to watch and certainly holds it’s own style. Scarlett Johansson fans will be disappointed to learn that she looks more like a skank from The Sopranos than her usual jaw-dropping self. Check this one out in the cinema for a riskaay night out...

- by Gavin Fitzgerald

Thursday 14 November 2013

1980 Prince - Dirty Mind

Prince, 'Drity Mind'

Info: Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1958 to parents John Nelson (himself a jazz musician) and Mattie Shaw. This cat is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor and um, specialist contortionist. He penned his first piece of work at the tender age of seven on his father's piano, prophetically entitled 'Funk Machine'. Following a turbulent childhood after his parents divorce, Prince began living with neighbours, the Anderson's, whose son Andre formed a band with Prince called Grand Central during their high school years.Prince's musical career was set in motion in earnest when Minneapolis businessman Owen Husney signed him, aged 17 and helped him record his first demo. The demo eventually caught the attention of the major record labels and Warner Brothers swept in to commit him to an initial three record contract. In 1979 Prince released his debut and eponymous album, featuring the hit single 'I Wanna Be Your Lover', which went platinum and catapulted the artist into the Billboard Charts. The following year Prince released his third record, Dirty Mind. (If all you could think of when reading that was, 'I wonder is that urban legend about Prince having his lower ribs removed to please himself true?' I'll attempt to clear it up later).

For me, on a personal level, Dirty Mind is Prince's best album and encapsulates him as an artist and person perfectly, from it's gloriously funky basslines to it's raw sexuality, particularly on songs such as 'Head' (the name speaks for itself) and unsurprisingly, title track 'Dirty Mind' with a good dose of controversial subject matter in 'Sister'. Another aspect of this album that appeals to me is the fact that I really think we see Prince at his most base in terms of character, in later years, particularly the 90's, Prince went a little bit weird, with strange name changes such as TAFKAP, and the symbol thingy, and was acting oh so mysteriously. Although short, only 8 tracks long, by the end of it you feel energised, helped along by closing track, 'Party Up', plenty of bass slapping and strong disco elements going on here, 'We don't give a damn, we just want to jam, party up party up....drink more, you're such a fucking bore' Prince proclaims, nudging us toward previously non-existent feelings of hedonism and binge-drinking.My own personal favourite track on the album is #5, 'Uptown', a monologue between a boy and a girl who asks him 'Are you gay?' which shocks him, but gets him thinking, again this has heavy layers of funk, synth and drumbeat, this is the only track on the album co-written with his old friend, Andre Anderson.

While Dirty Mind initially didn't make much of a dent on the US music charts, it was still critically acclaimed, and would eventually, in 1984, go gold. It's been described as post-disco meeting rock and I think in anyone's book, that's not something to be missed. And so, I turn to the burning question, like Richard Gere and the gerbil, did it really happen? I'm going to go with definitely not, for one main reason, having your lower ribs removed is a serious operation, and according to John E. Sherman of Weill Cornell Medical College 'while such a procedure was theoretically possible, there was no record of it in the medical literature.' <<< Science. One irate fan put it better though over on the unofficial message boards, 'Yes, he did. He also had his head removed during the Rave era, and shoved up his ass'.

Track Listing:

1. Dirty Mind
2. When You Were Mine
3. Do It All Night
4. Gotta Broken Heart Again
5. Uptown
6. Head
7. Sister
8. Party Up

Gravity (2013)

Gravity - George Clooney - Sandra Bullock

Genre: Drama, Sci-fi, Thriller
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón 
IMDB Rating: 8.5/10
My Rating: 7.5/10
Runtime: 91mins

Synopsis: A space disaster and subsequent flying debris leaves two astronauts mid-orbit, cut off from communication and a long way from home.

People who have been to space talk about the change of perception when they view earth from above. Aside from witnessing awesome thunder storms, aurorae borealis’ and vast mountain ranges, what strikes space cadets above all is the realisation that earth is just another planet floating in infinite space. It puts things in perspective when we worry about trivial things and makes you consider how precious life is and how we should be preserving our planet rather than allowing corporations to destroy it. After all we are all one - we all come from the same star.

Gravity gives you this sense of awe and appreciation for life. Indeed, this is what the story is based upon - Ryan (Sandra Bullock), a mother who has lost a child, and thus her will to live, must fight to survive in adverse circumstances. The central question the film puts to us is - do we value life? Matt, George Clooney’s character, certainly does and the way in which his positivity rubs off on Ryan is a message to the masses; attitude makes all the difference. 

Gravity is a film that you have to see in 3D. I don’t think you will get the same experience watching it on your laptop, so for that reason I’d encourage everybody to go and see it in the cinema. The imagery and special effects are magnificent and reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Oddity. The soundtrack is epic and deservedly so as the spectacular backdrop of earth is forever present. At times, I did find myself wondering where the story would go. I felt as though the supernatural might come into play but the film remained in the drama genre. This must have been an incredibly tricky story to write and full credit must be given to Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men) for pulling it off. 

Below the trailer is a link to a short documentary that I’d recommend watching before going to see Gravity. Sometimes you just have sit back and enjoy the wonderful technology of film, and, this doc may help you appreciate how far mankind has come.

- by Gavin Fitzgerald