Friday, September 28, 2007

a little something for the weekend

I found this on queerclick ages ago and kept forgetting to upload it to my blog. Until seeing this pic, the delightfully named Rusty Joiner was a stranger to me.

and yet now I already know his religion.

a heartbreaking work of staggering genius

Note the use of lower case. I'm not talking about the pretentious Dave Eggers novel, rather it's the most fitting way to describe the new PJ Harvey album, White Chalk.

It is, in my opinion, the finest album she has ever produced. It is stark, it is gothic and it is relentlessly downbeat, but it has an incredible sense of focus and she sounds very assured in her new sound. At just 34 minutes, there is not an ounce of fat here, not one track outstays its welcome nor do you find yourself thinking "well this could have been left off the record" (Tori Amos take note).

I was slightly overzealous in saying earlier that there was no guitar on this record. There is both bass and acoustic guitar but they are not the main focus by any means. A crazy array of instruments are listed on the sleeve notes, zither, banjo, mellotron, broken harp, even a wine glass. The lyrics are dark, twisted and beautiful, for the most part delivered in the higher range of her voice. For me the outstanding track is "The Piano". I was listening to the song on my iPod walking to work and it took me by surprise. The start of the song, she seems to be talking about someone she killed with a hammer. Suddenly out of nowhere, she sings "oh god I miss you" over and over with the most beautiful swell of music behind it. I actually welled up walking along listening to it.

I cannot wait to see her in concert tomorrow night now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Oh Ms Harvey, you crazy

I love me some PJ. I got into her way back in 1993 when you couldn't move 50 yards in any direction without coming across an advert for this.

I had no idea who she was and a friend had bought the album so I borrowed it from him. There are not many albums I can truly describe as being life altering, but Rid Of Me is one of them. It blew my tiny mind. To this day, I count it among my favourite albums of all time.

With that album, she was still critically adored but resolutely not mainstream. While she sold ok numbers and could fill your average concert hall, she never really troubled the radio or the charts. And that was fine with me. Her next release saw her fanbase increase and To Bring You My Love was the first time I saw her perform live.

It was, to be brutally honest, average. I was so excited and was right at the front but it wasn't quite the sum of its parts. I still went back when she veered off into the experimental with Dance Hall At Louse Point.

The only gigs performed for this were with a dance troupe in tow. I can't remember the name of the troupe but they put together a dance piece to the whole album and PJ with her band performed the songs while the dancers danced. Neither the dance piece nor the album were well received but I loved it, even if when I saw that gig I was frightened for her as she was so clearly anorexic at the time.

The physical and psychological effects of that illness manifested themselves on her next release, Is This Desire?.

Bleak and desolate, it's the wrong side of no fun at all and it's the album I listen to least. It still has some outstanding stuff on it, but to listen to as a whole, it's a tough call.

A scant two years later, and the mainstream success that had up to this point eluded her came rushing in.

Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea is easily her masterpiece, with awards and plaudits in no short supply. Furthermore, the tour that followed saw a relaxed, happy and healthy (and scarily resembling Liz Hurley) PJ clearly enjoying herself for the first time in a very long time. I went to both London dates and was awestruck both nights. I also remember being highly amused when she forgot the words to "Down By The Water" and had a fit of giggles mid song. When it was over she simply said "well I don't know what happened there".

But greater things, gig wise, were to come. If I thought i was seeing someone on the top of their game then, well more fool me. In the lead up to releasing Uh Huh Her, PJ Harvey was the first artist to perform a concert at Tate Modern. I went to that concert and was simply astonished at how much better she had become since the last time I'd seen her. Later that summer, she performed two outdoor gigs that were even more astounding. The first one, in particular, I remember feeling so fucking lucky to witness it. Genius.

So it was a shame that the album didn't live up to those gigs and was a little Mmm Hmm Blah. Drawing heavily on what was presumably a nasty break up with Nick Cave (several songs could be retitled "In Your FACE, Cavey") something feels like it's missing from the album as a whole, but I don't know what. And it's a real shame that the exuberantly and joyous live performance of "Who The Fuck?" is not present on the lifeless studio cut. Again, I don't hate the album and a recent re-listen proved it's actually getting better with age. But still.

And now? Today saw the UK release of her 9th original studio album. For her entire career, her sound has been guitar driven. White Chalk pulls a most spectacular volte face and doesn't contain a single guitar.

It's a very spooky and chilly album. The fact that on the front cover she looks like she is auditioning for the sadly non existent third season of Carnivale is no mistake. I need to listen to it properly before I can review it in any depth but on a first listen, I was glad it was a brief 34 minutes. It's very intense and any longer would perhaps be too much.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hot Guy Monday: The Return

It's been a while since we had some hot guys up in here. Dreadfully slack of me, I apologise. To bring the hotness back, the first HGM entry goes to someone I have only recently discovered, even though he's been around for at least six years. I recently got very addicted to The Shield. I have had the first season on DVD since 2003 but never watched it. Recently I finally got around to it and suffice to say I now own all five available seasons of the show and am frothing at the mouth to get hold of season six. As Curtis Lemansky was my favourite character and the finale of season 5 saw him exit the show (which I watched last night), today's Hot Guy is Kenneth Johnson. Hot Guy. Not pretty boy, not skinny mini bum boy. Hot.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Audience Proof

Last weekend I attended a preview screening of the new Tarantino movie, Death Proof. As everyone knows, it is a newly expanded version of his half of the failed Grindhouse experiment. I have to say, having seen this, it is no longer a mystery to me why the experiment failed.

Firstly let me put all my cards on the table and say I am not a fan of Tarantino the man or the movie maker. I find him unbearably smug and irritating when interviewed and his films have grown ever more painfully self indulgent. I really liked Kill Bill Vol 1 but the second installment bored me to tears. And the fact that what started out as an 80 minute quick and dirty little revenge movie bloated in to a two volume FOUR HOUR movie highlights the biggest problem with Death Proof: It's too long and too dull.

Grindhouse in its original double bill format was supposed to run two hours max. Due to the madness of the directors behind the project it finally clocked in at over three hours. And now, with 25 minutes of footage restored, the stand alone Death Proof runs at close to two hours. Which normally would be fine. But when you only have enough plot and character development to sustain maybe a quarter of that running time, then there's a problem. Whole sequences of the film are made up of uninteresting characters having highly unbelievable and really very boring conversations. And one more shot of bare feet and I was about ready to kick the screen in. Yes, Quentin, you have a foot fetish, I get it. But come on.

However there are two more problems far more fatal than the above. Firstly, the film lacks the courage of its convictions. The first half of the movie is all bad edits, crackly film stock and so on, exactly the retro Grindhouse look aimed for. The second half of the movie doesn't have that at all, it's a "proper" film in terms of editing etc. But even more annoying to me was that having worked so hard to give the film a 70s look and feel in everything from the shooting style to the locations, props and costumes, the film was set in the present, with cell phones and iPods making unnecessary and glaringly anachronistic appearances. And the second half of the film focuses on four people who work in the movie business and their dialogue is so clogged with pop culture references that it eventually suffocates on its own post modern clever-cleverness. If you must see it, pay for another movie and sneak in to watch the last 20 minutes for the only bravura stunt sequence in the film. Other than that, file it under "failure". Shame.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm coming back

When I left NYC in January, I was really pleased that the next time I went back would be for good as leaving to come back to the UK was really quite a wrench. As we all know, thanks to visa fuck ups, my permanent arrival is now somewhat, if not indefinitely, delayed. When that happened, I thought long and hard about whether or not I would be able to take a holiday in NYC again.

But who was I fooling? Of course I can. I'm going back for two weeks at the beginning of October. I'll be staying with Eric which will be fabulous. Thanks to working three jobs lately, I'm pretty exhausted and so this time it's as much for a proper break as it is a job hunt. Also thanks to said triple job madness, I'm ok for money right now so I have booked myself some shows to see. My current schedule looks like this:

October 5th: Arrive

October 6th: Recover from the jet lag

October 7th: 2pm - Mauritius (starring previous HGM stud Bobby Cannavale)
7pm - Rent (yes really

October 9th: 8pm - A Bronx Tale

October 10th: 2pm - Pygmalion

October 11th: 8pm - Tori Amos

October 12th: 8pm - Tori Amos

October 13th: 2pm - Die Mommie Die!
8pm - Frankenstein

October 14th: 3pm - Cyrano De Bergerac

October 15th: 8pm - Young Frankenstein

October 16th: 7pm - Curtains

October 17th: 2pm - Xanadu

The rest of the time I'm there is free for now so I can see friends, hang out and be sociable. I fly back home on the 20th. It'll be a blast. I can't wait.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we're back

Well it’s been a tough time of it here in PCB Land. I almost lost momentum for re-starting the blog in fact. But here I am.

There was some serious upheaval in my professional life. I have blogged on here before about work and been a scooch too candid in my details which led to me deleting a whole load of entries. So I’ll try and say what’s been going on without being too obvious or too cryptic. Should be fun. Basically, the product that I worked on is being discontinued. So this means by the end of this year there will be no job for me. Or 40 of my friends and colleagues. We’re all out of a job. However, I say “worked” past tense, as I already have a new job. It’s in the same company and indeed in the same building but it is in a completely separate area of the business.

As the wind down for the product I used to work on went less than smoothly I am also doing overtime back in my old role when it’s required. Right up to this week, it’s been required a LOT and I am exhausted from it. But I’m also going to be quite rich, so it’s all good. And I need the money as I am headed back to NYC in October for two weeks, as much for a rest and a holiday this time as for a job hunt. I have booked a lot of theatre already and when I have put the finishing touches to it, I’ll post my whole itinerary here. I am really really really REALLY looking forward to it. I’m also going to try and be less rubbish and less boring in my blogging. Can’t promise of course, but I’ll try.