Friday, February 29, 2008

NME Awards 2008: Liveblog


It's the awards show it's ok to like! Well, if it's ok to like the NME and I suppose that the jury's out on that one. I realise that this e4 broadcast of the awards show isn't *actually* live, but this way we don't have to sit through the technical hitches and waiting around between awards and performances. Much tighter.

For me, 2007 was really not a vintage year for music. In fact, I like to call it the year when music went wrong. I suppose we had it coming, seeing as though we've been going through something of a purple patch recently; ever since The Strokes re-introduced indie kids to Converse and tailoring, in fact. Now, just like the late 90s, things have gone seriously wrong. The Enemy, The Wombats, frickin' Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong - am I seriously meant to like these bands? I'm not even sure that NME are entirely convinced. Anyway, I'm telling you this so that you can expect a few cynical comments during my liveblog tonight. If you're happy with that, hop over the cut! Keep refreshing...

10.57: Still awake then kids? Enjoy Ashes To Ashes? "Gene..." "I know." Brilliant. Right onto tonight's proceedings...

10.58: Oh great.. it's these two. Since when did anyone consider them good presenters? Did they really impress so much on Big Brother's Big Mouth?

11.00: Oooh there's Noel Fielding in a bandanna... nice one. These band spoofs are just HILARIOUS, aren't they? Haha, the Kaiser Chiefs DO say AHHHHH a lot!! Man I'd have never realised that on my own...

11.02: Klaxons are performing Atlantis To Interzone - it's the sirens on this track that convinced everyone that they were nu-rave. Then we all heard Golden Skans and realised that they could actually written tunes... I mean tunes that initially remind one of Hard-Fi, of course, but when you get over that it's a killer.

11.04: Is that a new drummer or has he just cut his hair...? I liked that hair, but maybe he felt he needed to do something drastic to actually get noticed for once.

11.05: Dizzie Rascal is introducing Matt and James, with them as backing singers and dancers... oh Dizzie, you're better than this!

11.08: "This has been one of the greatest years in music history." Oh dear.

11.09: Richard Hawley's on, presenting Best Track, and trying to get the audience going a bit. Good luck with that. If there were any justice, The White Stripes' Icky Thump would win but seeing as though it's not nominated, that's unlikely.

11.11: Arctic Monkey's Fluorescent Adolescent has taken the award, which is a worthy replacement, and I'll forever heap the band with praise after they openly criticised the Brit School love-in last week!

11.17: Ooh it's a couple of Let's Have A Skins Party people. Ie they're both in Skins, and they're presenting the award for Best Solo Artist. I may be wrong about this, but I think that every single nominee apart from Patrick Wolf is a Brit School graduate. That's not at all depressing, is it?

11.18: And Kate Nash has won, who I can't take seriously since I heard that 'I just want your kiss booooy' song, which is just too similar to something Natasha Bedingfield would write.

11.21: Ah it's Indie Hero Lightspeed Champion. I might not be totally down with his music but I do like a man in a cape...

11.24: This is perfectly pleasant, I must say, and there's a rather wonderful Star Wars theme going on with the costumes, which was admittedly done by Gnarls Barkley last year, but is always fun...

11.25: Best TV show now, and Russell Howard's presenting. If NME faves The Mighty Boosh don't win I'll eat my virtual hat. Shame Buzzcocks has to miss out, though - Simon Amstell has done wonders for that show.

11.27: And the Boosh have indeed won - and whole gang are here (minus Bob Fossil) out of costume! Even Mike Fielding and Dave Brown bless 'em! Normally they're kept in their place in costume. Julian, as always, has some pearls of wisdom to offer. Oh, I love him anyway.

11.30: Faris Rotter and Kimberley Stewart - in no way a strange pairing - are presenting Best New Band; a category which is testament to my 2007 SUCKED argument. The Enemy have won, which is terrible, obviously, but it does mean that their lead singer and Faris have been brought together, and there's about a two-foot height difference. I'm sorry, but that's *always* funny!

11.34: It's the Radar Award now, and the much-hyped Glasvegas are the recipients. No snarky comment, Anna? Nope, they seem like decent guys who are passionate about their music.

11.40: And we're back with a performance from Gallows featuring Lethal Bizzle. I can't handle this nu-punk, I just don't have the constitution for it, but this band certainly follow their own path and can be admired for that. As for their collaborator, I must relay a fantastic Amstell line from the recent series of Buzzcocks: "Why do you have to be so Lethal?"

11.44: Onto the Best Video award, presented by The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd - and Richard Ayoade but apparently he's not worth a mention. Awww. That JUSTICE video is pretty mesmerising, but of course it's the Arctics who have won. Not that I'm complaining; I'm glad that this song, Teddy Picker, has got some recognition, however indirectly. Top song.

11.47: Who's doing these backstage interviews? I feel very out of the loop...

11.50: Ooooh some genuine prickliness between Matt and Kelly Osbourne, who's presenting the award for the Best Live Band. You don't really need me to tell you who's won this, do you? It's Muse. Of course it's Muse. IT WILL ALWAYS BE MUSE.

11.53: A performance of The Smith's classic Panic from The Cribs, now. The Cribs are a definite contender for a Band I Don't Like As Much As I'm Supposed To... it's just too tempting to want them to lighten up a bit, isn't it? I mean, Artic Monkeys did last week at the Brits and they've been hailed as heroes. C'mon Jarman Brothers, give it a go!

12.00: Two thirds into the show, and we're onto Best International Band. With Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire and The Killers all nominated, this is a refreshingly strong category. Just ignore My Chemical Romance, ok? The Killers have sent a thoroughly bizarre acceptance speech... I can't even begin to describe it, actually... so I won't.

12.04: Proper Indie Legends In Sharp Suits Mani and Bobby Gillespie are presenting the award for Best Album which *amazingly* has gone to Klaxons as opposed to Arctic Monkeys! I thought they were a shoo-in for this one, but it's nice to spread it around a little, right?

12.07: Kate Nash and Billy Bragg. I'm sorry, but that's a collaboration the world can really do without. I have problems enough with liking Foundations without introducing another element I have problems with... Kate's hair looks nice though. What?

12.11: Presenting the big award for Best Band is the ubiquitous Agyness Deyn and there are no shocks here - Arctic Monkeys have indeed won. And quite right too; I had something of a road to Damascus moment with the Monkeys last year when I realised that they write amazing, interesting tunes, and don't always write lyrics like "you're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham". Thank goodness.

12.20: In a partnership to rival Kimberley Stewart and Faris Rotter, it's NME's Zach Braff-a-like editor and uber-successful boxer Joe Calzaghe, on stage to present Manic Street Preachers with the God-Like Genius Award. Cue the talking heads montage!

12.26: And we finish with a performance from the aforementioned God-Like Genii, with an appearance from Cerys Matthews. If you're interested in the rest of the (untelevised) awards, here you go...

Best Music DVD: Nirvana Unplugged In New York
Best Live Event: Carling Weekend, Leeds and Reading
Best Radio Show: Zane Lowe, Radio 1
Best Film: Control
Best Website: Facebook
Best Venue: Wembley
Villain of the Year: George W Bush
Best Dressed: Noel Fielding
Worst Dressed: Amy Winehouse
Worst Album: Britney Spears, Blackout
Sexiest Man: Noel Fielding
Sexiest Woman: Kylie Minogue
John Peel Award for Music Innovation: Radiohead
Best Dancefloor Filler: 'Lets Dance To Joy Division' The Wombats (urgh)
Best Album Artwork: The Good The Bad And The Queen
Best Band Blog: Radiohead
Best Music Blog: The Modern Age

Night all!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Paul Fuzz on Life In Cold Blood

Snakes are shit. God knew it, Rudyard Kipling knew it, Samuel L Jackson knows it.

Ha! Read more of Paul's response to The Snakes Episode here...

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Wireless Theatre Company

Via Rob :)

I would very much like to introduce The Wireless Theatre Company, a completely new type of online theatre company, from the UK, who produce plays and audio entertainment for publication the internet.

On our website listeners can preview, and then download any play they choose from our catalogue to their iPod, MP3 player, mobile phone or computer desktop, for free!

We produce, cast, edit and upload all the plays ourselves and are hugely passionate about new writing, and giving opportunities to new acting talent.

The Wireless Theatre Company is up and running and you can visit now and download an MP3 of our productions to see how it works. I have been overwhelmed by the 'buzz' the site has created, with over 400,000 hits since we launched in may and people downloading our plays from all over the world. Our listener's feedback page has grown impressively and we now have over 20 productions on the site.

Our next planned project is to record a season of Shakespeare's plays to act as a study aid for teachers. We believe it will be an invaluable tool in engaging pupils studying the classics, by encouraging pupils to listen to audio plays, as well as music, on their iPods.

Sounds interesting, right?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Paul's Brits Liveblog

Go read :)

The Grouch, West Yorkshire Playhouse


It is easy to see why playwright Ranjit Bolt felt that Molière's much loved 17th century play, The Misanthrope, was so well suited to a modern adaptation. Tony Blair's real legacy is one of New Labour spin – all sheen, euphemism and carefully chosen words – and it is this very culture of disingenuousness that Molière's hero, or anti-hero, is so riled by, and is desperate to fight against tooth and nail.
In this world premiere of Bolt's The Grouch, le misanthrope, Alceste, is transformed into Alan, a 21st century intellectual, Guardian columnist and author. It is this very genius, however, that brings him into contact with a moneyed and shallow world where everyone is everyone else's best friend – that is, until they leave the room, at which point it becomes obligatory to point out their every character flaw. And Alan hates it. The constant flattery, the air-kissing, the 'networking', the ability – indeed, the necessity – to turn one's emotions and attachments on and off like a tap in order to get in with the right people, and put down the wrong ones.

Alan feels like a man out of time, and his outsider status is here brilliantly portrayed, before a word is even uttered, by the set and costume design. All of the action takes place in Celia's apartment (Celia being the love of Alan's life, despite her displaying and often actively flaunting all of the character traits that he so abhors) and it is tasteful to a fault - apart from the 20-foot high black and white photograph of herself that dominates one wall. It is white, pink, and clutter-free and all of the men who come to visit her there seem to fit in perfectly with the colour-scheme and general feel of place. All except Alan, of course, who clashes hideously with the decor, his forest green, heavy-gauge corduroy suit screaming out against the minimalist surroundings.

Bolt has decided to write this new adaptation in verse, and while you are constantly aware of that, the syntax and language of this play are in fact its main triumphs, and not at all a distraction or intrusion. These people, Alan included, are quite literally 'all talk', so the wordy, deliberate nature of the script is just perfect. It works especially well with an aspiring poet who comes to fawn over Alan and acquire his praise - as well as another Facebook friend to add to his no doubt already astronomical list. As well as the poem he reads itself being awful, his 'ordinary' speech is also littered with clumsy rhymes and forced metre. It really is the most perfect coming together of form and content.

Allan Corduner, as Alan, never lets us quite decide whether his constant fight against the world around him really does come from a desire for sincerity, or whether he is simply, as Celia puts it, 'Mr Devil's Advocate' who can't bear to have the same opinion as anyone else. In any case, the play is ambivalent about whether it is right to be honest all of the time, and ultimately appears to reward two characters who play the game on occasion, but have integrity and humanity too.

This production is graced with good acting throughout, but the real star is, without doubt, the wonderful script. It is clever, very funny, mixes archaic language with references to Madonna, and, best of all, it has the ability to consistently surprise and delight the audience.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wolf People + Karl Culley

I went to York's CityScreen Basement Bar last night to see a band that Mr Fuzz has been raving about for some time now - Wolf People. They're a bit rhythm and blues, a bit prog, a bit rock and roll, and a lot jazz flute. And they really are awesome musicians. You want 12-minute wig-out sessions? You got 'em, mister! Check out their myspace.

First support was acoustic/folk singer-songwriter Karl Culley, and man can this guy play guitar. At times it looked more like he was playing piano. Ridiculous. He's a little reminiscent of Nick Drake, I guess, but there are probably more aposite references which I'm just not aware of. Anyway, he's innovative, and massively talented. You must take a look at his myspace too, of course.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Never Better

I just thought I'd repost my TVScoop post about Never Better here, as I want to spread the love a little bit...

Why I Love... Never Better

Yes that's right, I *love* Never Better. That apparently insignifcant half hour of telly that you may or may not endure Little Miss Jocelyn to get to. Everything I read about it seems to assume that everybody agrees that it's slow, inconsequential and underwhelming. Well you know what? I really don't agree. When I said in my review of the second episode that it was better than its nearest equivalent show on TV, Lead Balloon, I was merely talking in degrees. But I was wrong - it is much, much better. Streets ahead, in fact.

Lead Balloon, we hear, is coming back for a third series, probably in the Autumn, but I'm concerned that the lack of 'buzz' around Never Better will mean that it doesn't even get the chance to return for a second. That's why I'm nailing my colours to the mast now, and saying, unashamedly, that I love this comedy, and that I really want to see more of it.

I'll agree that the series started off in a way didn't immediately grab you - we didn't know why the main character Keith had been drinking, for a start, and at the time things like that mattered, because you felt you wanted to get a handle on where you were. But when Stephen Mangan said in our interview that "[Alcoholics Anonymous is] just a good setting to put this character into because he's dealing with a lot of people who have a lot to lose" you realised that *that* was in fact more the point.

Each week, Keith has come into contact with people who have had the same problems as he has - and often much worse - and for one reason or another, he has often affected how they continue with their battle against alcohol addiction. It's important that while he habitually says the wrong thing at AA meetings, he's actually usually saying something that everyone else is thinking - the problem is that he doesn't have the same filter between his mind and his mouth.It does mean, however, that people are rather drawn to him, in a moth to the flame kinda way, not realising that Keith's having just as much trouble being sober as they are. But fundamentally he's a kind soul, and we've seen him genuinely trying to help his fellow AA members. That he often fails, and that one of them ends up dead is entirely beside the point - he's a good man. A good man who makes bad decisions for good reasons.

It's not just Keith's character, and Mangan's wonderful performance, that makes this such an enjoyable show, however - the script is absolutely top class. Each episode ended with different strands of the plot coming together in one final, usually laugh-out-loud gag, and you can tell that every single word means something. Often the jokes were so subtle, and the word-play so intricate that I've no doubt that I've missed a lot from just a single viewing of each episode, and that makes me eager to watch them again. The writer, Fintan Ryan, deserves a hearty slap on the back for this.

He also deserves the same for giving the series as a whole real structure. At first, it seemed quite acceptable that AA leader Doug wass short with Keith, because, as I've said, he often comes out with things that most of us would keep to ourselves. But as we learn more about Keith, find that he's essentially a good man, and realise that he's generally spot on in what he says, so too does Ryan allow us to see that Doug is actually a bit of an idiot who thrives on being looked up to by his members, who can't accept that he's ever wrong, and who has rather unfairly taken against Keith. As our affection for the main character grew, and as we came to the end of the brief series, I began to trust that Ryan would give us the positive pay-off I said I wanted. He left it late, but when Keith got stabbed while standing up for his wife... well you couldn't help but feel rather proud.

Every week I have looked forward to this show, and I have never been let down. Not only did it make me laugh out loud, I was also constantly impressed by the dexterity of the script, and actually felt something for Mangan's character. Others may be underwhelmed by this, but I think it's something of a low-key triumph.

So I've sucked recently...

Sorry bout that :)

Me and mum went to London last week, and got Hairspray tickets by simply turning up on the day and claiming a couple of the £20 tickets that they hold back for... well, people like us, I guess. It meant we had top-rate, £60 tickets for a third of their price, slap bang in the middle of the stalls. Nice. Hairspray has got a load of nominations in the current round of theatre awards, and on one had I can see why. It's loads of fun, looks amazing, and has some fantastic performances in Leanne Jones and Michael Ball - looking fab in drag! But, despite a major element of the show being about Tracy leading a demonstration against segregation on television, it still feels as light as a bubble. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and you come out humming the songs, certainly, but it tells that I would have been loath to spend anything *more* than the twenty quid we did.

Next day, we met up with lovely Carolyn, ate at The Long Acre (always somewhere to sit, despite being a minute from Leicester Square, and you get Smarties with your hot drinks!), and headed off to see The History Boys. Everyone agrees that this is a triumph, and I'm not going to disagree. It's funny, smart, and when you're parents are teachers, it resonates, of course, that little bit more. It's all about the struggle between teaching to inspire and enrich, and teaching to get you somewhere - through an exam, into Oxbridge, onto the job market. Unsurprisingly, it is suggested that teaching to exams alone is stifling and short-sighted, but it doesn't over-romanticise the other approach, either. It's thoughtful, as all things written by Alan Bennett are, but the main thing is that it's hilarious.

What else happened...? Things bought:
The new Dylan Best Of
The new Robots In Disguise album, We're In The Music Biz
and a rather lovely cream belted mac from Zara

So that's London wrapped up. I'm going to see The Grouch (a re-telling of The Misanthrope) for MusicOMH this Wednesday, so there'll be a review of that coming up, and later there's Rhod Gilbert (in Donny!) to tell you about.

Thursday, February 14, 2008