Sunday, October 24, 2010

Simon Pegg at Forbidden Planet (and Jess Hynes on Spaced)

There aren't many people I'd queue up in the freezing cold for, simply to exchange a matter of nine or ten words and get a book signed, but the wonderful Simon Pegg - co-creator of what I maintain is one of the greatest television shows ever, Spaced, not to mention the brilliant Big Train, Shaun of the Dead and a whole host of ridiculously high profile, Hollywood roles - is certainly one of them. And I proved that yesterday when I, well, queued up in the freezing cold just to exchange (etc etc).

The meeting - which, let's face it, I've been waiting about eleven years for - was hardly historic, but I thanked him for the all the laughs he's provided me, and said that Spaced has picked me up countless times when I've felt a bit down; to which he responded "I'm glad, that's what we're here for." Which is lovely.

Of course, with his autobiography Nerd Do Well out, Burke and Hare about to 'hit' cinemas, and the trailer for Paul just having been released, Simon's pretty ubiquitous at the moment, but frankly, I count a Pegg-filled week as a very good one indeed.

As an aside, Jessica Hynes was on Something for the Weekend this morning (again, promoting Burke and Hare) and when Tim Lovejoy asked a viewer's question 'Will there be any more Spaced', I scoffed, expecting the answer to be a blank no. But I was wrong... in fact, Jess said that not only could they write more, but that she would like to because she knows how much people love the characters! Amazing! The inevitable caveat, of course, is that Simon Pegg appears to have little interest in returning to Tim and Daisy. Sigh. If I believed that those two would mess it up, I'd say it's for the best. Unfortunately, I genuinely don't think that'd be the case.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Special Relationship III @ The Invisible Dot

Just time for a few words on another night at The Invisible Dot; another little bit of low-fi magic sprinkled in the north Camden area. 'The Special Relationship' is hosted by Tom Basden, and it's rather really lovely to see him centre of attention at the Dot, seeing as though he plays such a downtrodden, low-status character as part of his double act with Tim Key, Freeze. Also integral in the night's success are The American Twins, AKA purveyors of the finest short stories, Jarred McGinnis and Sam Taradash, and together the three presented a transatlantic mix of music, stand-up, story-telling, short films and poetry.

Matthew Robins and his beautiful combination of shadow puppetry and harmonium - truly lovely and inventive - kicked things off, and then there was poetry from Melissa Mann, short stories from the American Twins (both really impressive) a great little play written by Tim Key and performed with Isy Suttie, and the most atmospheric short film I have ever seen: Off Season, by Jonathan van Tulleken. To even tell you its genre is probably to give too much away, but I think it's still doing the rounds at film festivals so if you get the chance to see it - go. Highlight of the evening: extracts from Tom Basden's intentionally confused and over-explained novel 'Hot Moon' (there's a brilliant chapter here). It takes someone with truly fine writing skills to craft something that wonderfully ridiculous and funny - genuinely excellent.

I haven't made it to the two previous 'Special Relationship' nights, but I'll certainly be clearing a space for it in my diary (ok, Google Calendar) from here on in. Next one is 27th October.

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue

A new Ben Folds album! Ah, it's a thing to cherish, isn't it? And especially intriguing this time, with Nick Hornby on board to provide the lyrics, an aspect of songwriting that Ben has always said is secondary for him - he's all about the tunes, and while that's fine by me, I know his lyrics are a barrier for some.

Lonely Avenue is, after just a couple of listens, already my favourite Ben Folds album since Rockin' The Suburbs. Just like his first solo album there is a wonderful mix of the big and goofy, and the quiet and beautiful - both of which he's a real master at. There are bombastic numbers stuffed with layer upon layer of instrumentation and backing vocals like the frankly insane ode to poet Saskia Hamilton, and the radio-friendly 'From Above' about missed-opportunities ("sure we all have soul-mates but we walk past them everyday"). And then there are the smaller, simpler tracks like 'Belinda' - check out the lyrics to see the callbacks (forward?) to Juliet, Naked - and stand-out number 'Picture Window'; and it's on these tracks in particular that Nick's words and Ben's melodies work together wonderfully well.

What ties both types of song together on this album though, is that they are both equally blessed with some of the best choruses Ben has ever written. Perhaps it's because he has been able to work solely on the tunes, he has made them as instantly hummable as he can, and it means that even the tracks that aren't up to the standard of, say, 'Picture Window' still get kickass choruses - especially 'Doc Pomus' and 'Your Dogs.'

Listening to the album again as I type, I'm shamelessly flip-flopping in terms of which is my favourite song. 'Levi Johnston's Blues', written from the point of the view of the Alaskan teen who - as Hornby puts it - "knocked up the VP nominee's daughter" during the last presidential election, is a whole heap of fun, but then 'From Above' has an amazing middle-eight, 'Picture Window' is heartbreaking, and 'Password', about a boyfriend's attempts to hack into his partner's email account, has a real feeling of 'Rockin' The Suburbs' B-side 'Girl' about it - and that's a very good thing indeed. This isn't a new direction for Ben Folds - and if you're not already a fan, it's unlikely to convert you now - but it's a great showcase for what he does best: amazing tunes.

Friday, October 01, 2010

New on Dork Adore - my weekly WWBW column

What? You don't know what WWBW is? Where have you been?! It's a hashtag and everything!

Ha. Ok, basically it stands for 'What we've been watching' and I'll be doing weekly round-up of precisely that on Dork Adore every Friday for the foreseeable. I'd forgotten how much fun blogging about telly is... Please point your eyes in the direction of the first of hopefully many right here.