Sunday, 8 September 2013

Arctic Monkeys - AM (Domino Records - released 09.09.13)

And so it begins! The torrent of praise for another beautifully sculpted record by the Arctic Monkeys. This title might be no more than an acronym of their name, but one listen overtly proffers the fact that these songs are made for the small hours of the morning, when you've not been to sleep and have no intention of trying. Its a little schizophrenic, but its central theme seems concerned wholly with that internal struggle. To fuck or not to fuck. Or can I fuck? A lady is laced throughout its shady rooms like LSD on a hobnob. Maybe she's real, maybe she is a fantastic figment of this man's mind. In any case, she is all things to all people, encompassing great passion and complete confusion. Turner's impressive turn of phrase, and the beautiful descriptive qualities he employs throughout are unrelenting and cosmic. A true poet of our time, some moments will send shivers running down your spine, repeating lines to those who haven't heard them yet. Having an affinity with John Lennon among others, he takes runs with this link, but never relies on it. 

By now there are some tracks you know already. 'Do I Wanna Know?', tempo and growling undertones making you want to dry hump everything in sight, the ecstatic shredded guitar sitting atop the chunky base-lines of 'R U Mine?', and 'Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?' (a little lower on the dry-hump scale, but still up there) with cosmic guitar riff swirling around you, coming to a halt to reveal the sturdy beat underneath at intervals. And aside from these, here are some other die-hard lovelies, some hardcore bad-assery, and a whole lot of chemistry between you and the Monkeys. The slightly kitsch psychedelia peppering the record is interesting.  'Arabella' is a marvel, sultry and smooth, gliding through Turner's mind with this chick. Lyrics "Arabella's got some interstellargator skin boots, and a helter skelter 'round her little finger and I ride it endlessly" set up such an amazing image of this woman that when he quietly suggests "She's made of outer space. And her lips are like the galaxy's edge, and a kiss the colour of a constellation falling into place", the the Led Zepplin guitars swell, catching your breath as you feel that desire well up in your chest. This one's got a cheshire cat smile, and devours your attention whole.

Written and recorded on Americas west coast, at the Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree and Sage & Sound Recording in LA, the overwhelming raunchy atmosphere in tracks like 'One For The Road' truly sets this scene. Josh Homme guesting his vocals on this one truly clinches it. The undeniable cool is oddly complimented as they croon over the opening bars "One for the rooooaaaad!", almost sounding oddly like a boy-band. As the track progresses, the high and low tones of Homme and Turner respectively guild the sense of yearning and fear nicely. Undulations of base and drums, culminating in a pause to allow the parenthesis of plucked strings to frame the chorus. The slick dulcet tones of 'Mad Sounds' also has this Californian shimmer, indicative of a Velvet Underground tune, sweet and silky. The heart-breaking beauty of 'I Wanna Be Yours' falls within the realms of R&B in its 'sexual healing' quality, and compacts this ability the Monkeys have of slipping effortlessly between swaggering riffs and gentle cajoling calm. 

Its notable by this point I'm sure that sex is a heavy feature with this record. It creeps into every corner, sweeping you off your feet to carry you into the filthiest daydreams you've ever had. The dirty quality of Jamie Cook's rhythm turbo boosts this notion for 'Knee Socks'. There's this gorgeous little funk pace set against driving
beats that set your heart racing. Lyrics "never stopping me getting hold of your sweet spot by the scruff of your knee socks" are a possible contender for the sexiest ever written. Bravo Alex, bravo. It's understated swagger bleeds into 'No. 1 Party Anthem', Turner strolling through a crowded party "leather jacket, collar popped like antenna, never knowing when to stop." The title suggests preconceptions of a relentless blinder, but its slow twirling pace calls to mine Turner's solo collection of 'Submarine' fame, eking into ballad territory. 

And then there is 'Fireside'. Its a slow burner (pardon the pun) but you will find yourself subconsciously singing it in your head, body-popping to the staccato rhythmic machine gun that is tempered by the crooning Turner's yearning. Spangled guitar riffs coupled with a shimmery, stretched out solo create an ethereal air and sense of the unbearable lightness of being as we hear "Theres this image of you and I, and it goes dancing by, in the morning and the nighttime… I'm not sure i should show you what I found. Is it gone for good or is it coming back around?". It makes you want to dance almost as much as 'R U Mine'. Whilst we have already discussed this one, but its worth repeating just how fucking good it is! Probably the most like a track you'd find on their first album, yet more mature in its precision beats, and mid 90's elegant licks. 

'Snap Out Of It' holds a rarity. It is almost Vaudevillian, full of character and cartoon-like, with balls by the bucket load. Remonstrating a person who's fallen in love with "it sounds like settling down, or giving up, but it don't sound much like you, girl." Perhaps cajoling a lady-figure into leaving her current love for the singer. Its got a charming underlay of piano keys that inform the pace of the track, colouring a big theatrical sound, inspiring big dance moves. 

As a complete entity, it feels a little more disparate than anything that has come before. Never to be ones to stay in their safe zone (I'm not even sure they have one), the Arctic Monkeys are no stranger to experimentation. Whilst heavily stylised, it encompasses a broad range of influences, connected by the thematic exchange of lust, sex, frustrating indifference, and self-medicated confidence. The relentlessly shifting tempo and Turner's truly genius writing style hold your attention in a vice like grip for the duration of the record. It is a billboard for a band who still have so much more to give. And will continue to give it to us as long as we ask for it and they can draw breath enough to make it happen. And for that we wholeheartedly thank them! 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Howl For The Cash

Children and animals, the age-old curses of the cinema, and those you should never work with. Having said that, cinematic history proves that no one has ever heeded this advice, or steered clear of concepts involving such beings. Still, it has to be a tough field to navigate! Anyone who has children or pets in their employ is a brave soul indeed.

With this in mind, allow me to introduce you to Howl. The brain-baby of 14 Film Production students at UCA Farnham, this short film employs not one or two, but a bevy of child actors to wrangle with. Forming the central class of students within the village school, the story unfolds around devoted Teacher Miss Crawshaw, the apparently troubled new pupil Eleanor Stagg, and the mysterious man stalking the young girl. This is bound up with hints of a hellish animal within the village, framing the narrative in an otherworldly terror.

Ok, so perhaps animal is not so apt a word, seeing as the supernatural element of this tale is bound up in this beast, and the horror that lies within. The ambiguous ‘Howl’ that titles the film beautifully frames the bestial figure, and its darkness within. Miss Crawshaw’s seemingly futile endeavors to protect her students in the face of school politics hurl her down a rabbit hole of sorts, which will test her fraying nerves.

And all of this, the horror, the darkness, the beautiful imagery, would not be possible without your help. Yeah, that’s right, I’ve got your interest now, and you want to get into the meat of the tale? They need your money! Do a bit of good for our burgeoning student film market, and log on to;  Help push this project into fruition, and onto our screens. The funding will go towards production of the set, costumes etc, but most importantly, the realisation of the beast into flesh and fur form! Delicious.

Maestro’s of the mayhem; Allan MacLeod (writer),  Nina Kรคstner (Producer), Jamie Sims (Director), Adam Baldock (Production Manager) Ben Cowan (1st AD and Marketing), Samuel Hooper (Director of Photography), Jason Bourke Velji (Camera Operator), Zavinta Karsokaite (Lighting), Sophie Newton (Production Designer), Louis Grant (Art Director), Emily Britton (Costume), James Wright (Sound Design), Jasper Marriott-Tuft (Location Sound Recording/Mixing) and Ross Cameron (Editor/Marketing Team) are working hard, bringing you behind the scenes videos, outtakes and beautifully rendered concept art for your delectation on their website, so the payback for your donation is instant (Allan MacLeod’s pledge video outtakes are compulsive viewing).

This ain’t just another supernatural flick, this film has the backbone of narrative mesmerism and consciousness, with a substance of flesh, fur and fear, but needs your money to feed the beast. Howl needs you!