Sunday, 18 December 2011

a christmas gift for nice n sleazy: or, what we played last night at bottle rocket!

1. half man half biscuit - it's cliched to be cynical at christmas
2. jens lekman - waiting for kirsten
3. hefner - hymn for the cigarettes
4. zoey van goey - you told the drunks i knew karate
5. yuck - get away
6. surfer blood - miranda
7. telekinesis - on a plain
8. weezer - my name is jonas
9. cults - go outside
10. the ronettes - sleigh ride
11. charlie feathers - bottle to the baby
12. ivan - real wild child
13. kurtis blow - christmas rappin'
14. imperial teen - runaway
15. jimmy eat world - last christmas
16. frankie goes to hollywood - born to run
17. sally shapiro - anorak christmas
18. men without hats - the safety dance
19. ladytron - runaway
20. eux autres - jamais
21. the ronettes - frosty the snowman
22. st etienne - i was born on christmas day
23. japan - quiet life
24. blondie - call me
25. css - let's make love and listen to death from above
26. the sugarcubes - hit
27. le tigre - hot topic
28. men - credit card babies
29. mariah carey - all i want for christmas
30. lcd soundsystem - drunk girls
31. david bowie - blue jean
32. shonen knife - sweet christmas
33. yeah yeah yeahs - date with the night
34. bon jovi - bad medicine
35. john parr - st elmo's fire
36. simple minds - don't you forget about me
37. the replacements - alex chilton
38. fleetwood mac - everywhere
39. prefab sprout - king of rock n roll
40. prince - raspberry beret
41. arcade fire - keep the car running
42. the wedding present - step into christmas
43. talking heads - girlfriend is better
44. the ventures - walk don't run
45. low - just like christmas
46. tim wheeler and emmy the great - jesus the reindeer
47. the smiths - sheila take a bow
48. the ramones - merry christmas (i don't want to fight tonight)
49. bruce springsteen - ain't good enough for you
50. jose feliciano - feliz navidad
51. prince - extralovable
52. roxy music - virginia plain
53. depeche mode - just can't get enough
54. the waitresses - christmas wrapping
55. big country - in a big country
56. the cars - my best friend's girl
57. the osmonds - crazy horses
58. belle and sebastian - jonathan david
59. spin doctors - two princes
60. pulp - babies
61. the pogues and kirsty maccoll - fairytale of new york


Saturday, 17 December 2011

hark, is that bottle rocket?

damn right it is!

from 11:30pm, the basement of nice n sleazy is gonna sound something like this

and this

and this


11:30 - 3:00am, nice n sleazy, YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

Friday, 16 December 2011

the skinny's albums of the year #3: bill wells and aidan moffat - everything's getting older

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older

as with yesterday, here's a wee piece i wrote celebrating the bloody marvellous everything's getting older for the skinny's albums of the year round-up!

Arab Strap’s recent reunion had the potential to overshadow all else its erstwhile members were involved in this year. But in Everything’s Getting Older, Aidan Moffat not only co-created one of the best albums of his career, but one of the finest of 2011

It features many of the expected lyrical themes – bitter infidelities, lust, STDs – but they surface in novel ways: Glasgow Jubilee sees Moffat re-stock turn-of-the-century play La Ronde with grubby Glasgow trysts (replacing counts and housemaids with groupies and randy bosses), while elsewhere, characters dismiss their consciences (Ballad of a Bastard’s confessions of an adulterer) or are reined in by them (Let’s Stop Here’s almost-fling).

But the sinful and the salacious only account for a slither of the narratives; though Moffat’s barbed wit and earthy poetry is undiminished, protagonists are as likely to be trapped by 'shopping lists and school runs, direct debits and tax credits' as runaway libidos. Rapscallions of yore are, as the title suggests, maturing, a theme carried through to the artwork: aged portraits inked by Frank Quietly. “The cover has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy for me,” Moffat tells us now. “My mother can’t look at it, she thinks it’s horrible! I don’t mind at all. I’m ready to embrace age and all it brings.”

Bill Wells is equally comfortable confronting his personal Dorian Gray-style likeness (“admittedly, it isn’t so flattering personally, but then again it’s beautifully drawn”). From instrumental opener Tasogare onwards, the renowned maestro stamps his authorship as firmly as Moffat, demonstrating great versatility across the likes of Glasgow Jubilee’s lounge-funk riff, the anxious jazzy-whirlpool of Cages, or the understated piano refrain that sharpens The Copper Top’s melancholic ruminations. It’s a fruitful partnership that both hope to repeat. “We’ve talked about it, aye,” says Aidan. “I think it’ll happen eventually. After we wrote a couple of new songs for the Cruel Summer EP I felt quite inspired again. There's no rush though, we've both got plans for the future. I've got at least two albums planned for next year, along with a possible vocal group and hopefully a children's book too. I've got another album planned for 2013 too, but I have a habit of starting things and finishing them years later, as Everything's Getting Olderillustrates.” Work began circa 2003, but as Wells clarifies, “for at least five of these eight years we did nothing whatsoever, [so] I really hope it won't be so long 'til the next one.”

The album concludes with a brace of songs about fatherhood, the first of which pairs biological detail ('the lucky sperm and egg collide/ the zygote’s little cells divide') with balanced sentiment ('and remember: we invented love/ and that’s the greatest story ever told'), before And So We Must Rest’s lullaby closes with the sound of Moffat’s son snoozing. “He usually plugs his ears if I start singing a song,” says Aidan, “but when I was away [on tour] his Mum played The Greatest Story Ever Told to him and he said he liked it and wanted to listen to it again, which would have made me cry a wee bit if I hadn't been sitting in the front of a tour bus. Now that I'm home, though, it's back to plugged ears and nonchalance…”

Is Moffat concerned about what his son might make of his lyric sheets as he gets older? “I often wonder how I'm going to deal with that, aye. I can't hide it from him, not in this day and age, so I expect I'll have to be open and honest about it all. So he's either going to be a perfectly sensible, balanced young man or a complete steamer, it could go either way! But fuck it, if I can cope with my Mum listening to Arab Strap, then I'm sure I can deal with my son.”

While a series of gigs have kept the pair busy for much of the year (for Wells, the highlight of 2011 was “stepping through the door of my flat after returning from tour”), we ask what albums they’ve been bowled over by in the last twelve months. Wells singles out a re-release of Annette Peacock’s I’m The One (“still completely underrated – one of the most original and ground-breaking pieces of recording ever”), while Moffat doffs his cap to Slow Club’s Paradise. “I've seen some amazing gigs too: Remember Remember and Miaoux Miaoux at the Glasgow Planetarium, and Baby Dee in Bologna last week was amazing. There are many more, but I'm really bad at answering questions like this – I never remember anything. Everything's getting older indeed…”

(so, the skinny's complete top ten looked like this:

1. st vincent - strange mercy

2. bon iver - bon iver

3. bill wells & aidan moffat - everything's getting older

4. pj harvey - let england shake

5. king creosote & jon hopkins - diamond mind

6. battles - gloss drop

7. death grips - ex-military

8. low - c'mon

9. m83 - hurry up, we're dreaming

10. fucked up - david comes to life

i'll post my own list sometime after christmas!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

the skinny's albums of the year #10: Fucked Up - David Comes to Life

Fucked Up - David Comes to Life

I'm not going to run through all of the skinny's albums of the year this way, but since i wrote the wee blurb for this one, here it is!

It’s a tale as old as time: boy meets girl, girl gets killed by bomb, boy goes full-Pirandello and duels the narrator, boy is born again – we think. As the meta-layers accumulate, David Comes To Life becomes increasingly opaque, though is no less exhilarating for it.

With such expansive ambition, Fucked Up’s densely-plotted rock-opera could well have fallen flat, a risk the band were all too aware of. “I was at my most worried right before the record was released,” recalls Mr Jo, A.K.A drummer Jonah Falco. “I always have this intense dread right before a record comes out that it will be our final and most failing gesture – as though the whole facade of Fucked Up as a 'good band' is going to crumble away.”

While any anxiety was soon quelled by strong reviews across the board upon its release in June, should it come to it, David Comes To Life would make for a triumphant final opus; as the inimitable Pink Eyes (vocalist Damian Abraham) sings on Truth I Know, “I have my legacy and I am proud.” Abraham has repeatedly suggested that he may soon quit touring, placing the band’s current incarnation in jeopardy, but obituaries can wait: Jonah acknowledges some uncertainty, but notes that Fucked Up have “never been a band whose future is firmly predicted.” He describes David… not as a eulogy, but as “the shake-up we needed,” and as far as he’s concerned, “Fucked Up will always be the six of us.”

Unless, that is, the right collaborators get in touch – after all, there’s a tradition of turning concept albums into films or stage shows. Hell, Green Day made Broadway… ”I think it would be best to wait for the offers to come to us,” laughs Jonah. Any thoughts on who they’d trust this hypothetical task to? “I'm thinking that Sergio Leone should be exhumed and reanimated to do the directing, David would be played by Jackie Mason, Veronica by Katy Perry, and Octavio by Jimmy Pursey. The whole thing would be re-written by the guys from Peep Show and it would debut at the Curzon.”

Sounds good to us – while we wait for their respective agents to hammer out the details/resurrect their clients, we’ll continue to pick through the album’s enigmas. “In fact”, Jonah suggests, “you should probably just all dedicate your entire existences to listening to David Comes To Life. It's for your own good!”

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

muscles of joy @ oran mor, 27th november

Having separated from Divorce, it seems Palms have full custody of singer Sinead, and anyone only familiar with the caterwauling dervish schtick she deployed in the former may be surprised by the latter act’s restraint. Atonal guitars hint at Pod-period Breeders, but there’s a coarser edge, marking the trio out as an exciting prospect that we look forward to watching flourish.

If Palms’ potential comes from their confident execution of familiar stylistic cues, Muscles of Joy’s magnetism originates in something near-wholly idiosyncratic. The seven-strong collective open their album launch with avant-garde oddity Swan Shape, its theatrical gaggle of woops, giggles and cymbal splashes intimating something deeper than the average pop ditty, even if its abstruseness denies easy understanding.

While the remainder of the set is comparatively straightforward – as straightforward as phonetically sung Venezuelan folk songs and multi-part a-cappella can be – they remain consistently captivating, the music’s improvisational origins evident in the organic momentum with which tracks layer vocals and diverse instrumentation into beguiling wholes. But the temptation to go full-pseud in their presence is tempered by their clear sense of fun; their music engages the brain, but that doesn’t mean the heart can’t get involved as well.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

robert redford, django django, she's hit @ nice n sleazy, 26th november

Tonight’s line-up is a riddle alright, with Hollywood royalty atop a bill of curiously monikered support. First up, the erratically capitalised SHe’S Hit, who smother rock n roll bravado in dirty feedback and shoegaze layers. Their inspirations sit pretty on the surface, but it’s delivered with thrilling confidence; they’re men of few words, but achieve a lot with their time.

Next Fortean puzzle: just how do the so-good-they-named-it-twice Django Django stay cool despite having a song that sounds a bit like an Egyptian electro-Macarena (Skies Over Cairo). Looking bonny in matching Ts, they set pulses racing via curiously broad influences, and the packed-tight, enthusiastic crowd duly treat them as heroic headliners. Which they maybe, sort of, kind of are – or were, at least, back when the gig was first announced…

But when you’ve got none other than Robert Redford on your schedule – cinema icon and silver fox extraordinaire – you’d be remiss not to make space for ol’ Sundance as main attracti… Ok, so efforts to conceal the headliners’ true identity have been long abandoned, but while the arrival of The Phantom Band on stage surprises precisely no one (for starters, they’ve used the pseudonym before), it fair invigorates everyone who a) secured a ticket for this sold-out show, b) braved the monsoon whipping Glasgow to tatters outside and c) prevailed through a rather lengthy between-band wait (though the latter is no slog, thanks to sharp sounds from hosts The Hot Club).

“You’ve been waiting ages eh?” says Rick, swigging from a hip flask, “what, you got a bus to catch or something? Oh, you’ve missed it…” Thankfully, they make revising transit a no-brainer: a propulsive A Glamour opens strong; Throwing Bones’ krautrock-cruise ups the ante, while Left Hand Wave appears to hypnotise the fan to our left, spotted waving limbs like Drunken Master. Their performance may not showcase the band at their absolute best, but tonight was worth the wait.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

a very bottle rocket christmas!

Q. Michael, why should people come to bottle rocket on the 17th december?

A. Adeste fideles pals, adeste fideles. If you think you're sick of Christmas music now, just wait until Saturday 17th December. Yes, it's the one time of year we get to play Mariah Carey and damned if we're going to let that opportunity pass us by. Gather your nearest and dearest, grab a mulled white russian and come and pay homage at the altar of indiepopnewwavepostpunkandsoul, for lo! a single star shall be hovering above Sleazy's. Get there by 11:30 to ensure there WILL be room at the inn.

Expect the usual confused musical offerings with added festive cheer (i.e. Mariah Carey). What better way to start Christmas week? Don't answer that...

11:30pm - 3am!

First person to solve the cryptic video-based riddle and name the Christmas carol on the facebook wall below gets a special present. Maybe.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

take a worm for a walk week say naughty things in the spirit of christmas

once upon a friday in november, three quarters of take a worm for a walk week came round to my gaff, dressed up as santa and a pair of elves, and said despicable things in the course of passing judgement on the skinny's december singles pile...

Take A Worm For A Walk Week Dirty Dozen
Take A Worm For A Walk Week Dirty Dozen
Image: Euan Robertson

We invite Santa and his helpers (A.K.A. Joe, Ian and Johnny from Take A Worm For A Walk Week) to rate and slate December’s singles. Will the yuletide season instil peace and goodwill to all men? With unprintable chat revolving around home-made flesh lights, don’t count on it…

She & Him – Christmas Day (Double Six, 19 Dec)
Johnny: Is this it started aye? Shite.
Joe: This sounds like a hairy mince pie that’s been shat out. It’s shite, but she’s hot. So I’ll score her 3 out of ten.
Ian: For a Christmas song, 10 out of 10…
Joe: You can’t give her 10 out of 10 just because she’s hot!
Ian: …but for a song, minus 10.
Joe: We give this 'Tits out of 10'.

Band of Skulls – The Devil Takes Care of His Own (Electric Blues Recording, 4 Dec)
Johnny: Sounds like open mic night at Fury Murry’s.
Ian: I think that riff’s really shite, but the rest of the tune’s good. Unfortunately that riff is most of the tune…
Joe: If they played it through decent amps it might sound good, but it really doesn’t.
Johnny: Two out of ten.

Laki Mera – Crater (Mogwai remix) (Just Music, 5 Dec)
Johnny: This sounds like the last boss in Street of Rage 2.
Joe: This is shite.
Ian: I quite like the vocals…
Joe: Pish, they’re the worst thing about it!
Ian: It’s something I’d listen to in a warm bath; it reminds me of One Tree Hill.
Joe, checking sleeve: They paid top dollar to get Mogwai to remix that – that’s why it sounds like Kraftwerk.
Joe: 5 for this one.

Rise to Remain – This Day is Mine (EMI, 19 Dec)
Joe: Is this Shaggingforce?
Johnny: This is pure scuzz-core. Zero out of 10 – turn that one off, it’s shite. I hate that music so much. It makes me want to eat my own face from the inside out.
Ian: It makes me want to count my chest hairs.

The Lovely Eggs – Allergies (Too Pure, 5 Dec)
(Joe pulls a face like someone shat in his stocking…)
Johnny: Fucking hell…
Ian: Sounds like Echobelly or something…
Joe: It sounds like fucking egg and chips.
Johnny, spying the cover: Hold on, this is called egg and chips!
Skinny: Well, The Lovely Eggs…
Joe: Seriously? Well The Lovely Eggs sound like egg and chips.
Johnny: She needs singing lessons so she doesn’t sing in that accent all the time: [picks up the tune and starts crooning like a castrato Dick Van Dyke], ‘egg and chips, egg and chips, eeeegg and chips’. That’s what it sounds like: chips and egg.
Joe: Double egg, with an egg dip
Johnny: Egg, chips and egg, with an egg dip. Zero out of ten.

Girls – Myma/Lawrence (PIAS, 5 Dec)
Johnny: Is this at the wrong RPM? It’s pure slow as fuck.
Ian: The guitar tones are cool.
Joe: This is really reminding me of something but I can’t put my finger on it… Who is it?
Skinny: It’s the new single from Girls…
Johnny: But is it actually girls, or is it guys?
Joe: It just sounds like a straight-up Band of Horses rip-off
Johnny: And they’re not even girls – I’d call that false advertising. If I bought that, I’d expect to see girls, but no.
Ian: Compared to Rise to Remain, this is alright – I’d listen to this. I’d give it an 8.
Joe: 8?! 6.

The Vaccines – Wetsuit (Columbia, 4 Dec)
Ian: I’ve heard this tune [starts singing along].
Joe: 1 out of 10 for Ian’s singing. This song sounds like a scotch pie that’s been left out in Greggs for too long.
Johnny: This tune’s alright, 7 out of 10
Joe: No fucking way…
Ian: Make it 4 – it’s like Doves speeded up.
Joe: It’s more like Dove hand cream.
Johnny: Aye, this tune is Oil of Olay.

Twin Atlantic – Free (Red Bull Records, 5 Dec)
[Vocals begin; everyone starts laughing.]
Joe: Twin Atlantic! This sounds like my first pubes. Nah, actually, it sounds like my first pube, singular.
Ian: I’d listen to it if I was working out.
Joe: Aye, naked in front of the mirror with a hard on.
Ian: This is actually better than most of these songs, so 7.

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Wichita, 5 Dec)
Johnny: This is just boring – it sounds like a cheese board.
Joe: It sounds like some lassie broke up with her boyfriend on Facebook and is posting shite from YouTube about how hurt she is…
Ian: Crying into her beef and tomato pot noodle…
Joe: They sound like their music needs a first aid kit – it’s shite, but we’d probably pump them, so 'Pumped out of 10'.

Theme Park – Milk (Luv Luv Luv Records, 12 Dec)
Johnny: This is just ripping off Talking Heads.
Joe: It’s not milky enough. It sounds semi-skimmed.
Johnny: It’s soy milk.
Joe: No way, soy milk’s good, I drink soy milk all the time so I’m defending it. This is definitely semi-skimmed.
Johnny: You can get a lower rating than semi-skimmed, it’s like white water.
Joe: Aye this sounds like purple milk. 1 out of 10.

Cast – See That Girl (Cast Recordings, 19 Dec)
Johnny: If I could say one thing to Cast, it’d be “Stop. Give up. You’ve had your day”. They played my sister’s prom…
Joe: You’ve got a sister?! Since when?
Johnny: Just a couple of weeks ago. She’s 86.
Joe: No, but seriously, how old is she? I seriously didn’t know you had a sister…
Johnny: I’d give this song zero – mediocre bullshit.
Joe: I’d give it one to represent the pound that they’ll make on their comeback. This is the musical equivalent of standing in a dog shite wearing your new trainers. Zero.
Johnny: 0.00001
Skinny: Well that puts them above The Lovely Eggs…
Johnny: Eggs need to get the lowest score. Mainly because they’re called The Lovely Eggs.

Single of the Month: We Were Promised Jetpacks – Human Error/Ink Slowly Dries (Fat Cat, 5 Dec)
Joe: Is this Jetpacks aye? I’m playing a gig with them in December – doesn’t mean I have to give them a good review though. In fact, that’ll be a good talking point…
Johnny: This one reminds me of getting cleansed. It’s like using a nice shampoo and conditioner before I hit the living room with a wee glass of coke.
Joe: Nah, not coke: own-brand cola. Nae ice, not even chilled.
Johnny: Straight out the wee bottle.
Joe: Eight out of ten.

Monday, 5 December 2011

dashing throught the snow!

like a santa on a penny farthing!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

the skinny's top ten films of 2011

after banging our heads together, here's what the skinny's film writers jointly decided were the finest ten films released since january...

1. the tree of life (terence malick)
2. drive (nicolas winding refn)
3. meek's cutoff (kelly reichardt)
4. senna (asif kapadia)
5. we need to talk about kevin (lynne ramsey)
6. blue valentine (derek cianfrance)
7. tinker tailor soldier spy (tomas alfredson)
8. a seperation (asghar farhadi)
9. le quattro volte (michelangelo frammartino)
10. the fighter (david o. russell)

there's a fair bit of overlap with my own votes, but i'm gonna keep tweaking my personal list up till the end of the month. however, two that will appear are numbers 3 and 9, which i contributed little write-ups for:

Meek's Cuttoff (Kelly Reichardt)
As with most of Kelly Reichardt’s filmography, the triumphs of Meek’s Cutoff are as much in what it doesn’t do as what it does. A female-focussed western that doesn’t involve saloon girls, anachronistic behaviour or a rootin’ tootin’ Doris Day is a rarity in itself, while the director’s typically measured pace has a hypnotic allure, drawing the audience deeper and deeper into screenwriter Jonathan Raymond’s tale of a diminished wagon-train’s fateful progress through the Oregon plains. But perhaps fateful isn’t the correct word; as desperation mounts, a careful ambiguity anti’s the climax just as tensions reach a head, ensuring it lingers long in the mind.

Le Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino)
Taking inspiration from the Pythagorean concept that we each cycle through four lives – human, animal, vegetable and mineral – Michelangelo Frammartino’s second film studies the unhurried pastoralism of a remote Italian town to haunting effect. As goat-herd cedes to goat, goat to tree, La Quattro Volte pares away causal relations until we’re left absorbed in simple scenes of branches in the breeze. Though the temporality of existence may seem a potentially uneventful theme, its treatment is never less than fascinating; Frammartino leavens his metaphysical meditation with beauty, grace and – in a single-take scene of collie-Linkcaused destruction – humour, and the result is unforgettable.

you can read the full article here.

Friday, 2 December 2011

GFT Programme Note: We Have A Pope

Nanni Moretti's latest film is on selected release from today - here's a programme note commissioned by the Glasgow Film Theatre...


In the lead-up to its release in Italy earlier this year, We Have a Pope was met with outrage in certain quarters, with one bishop going as far as to label director Nanni Moretti an ‘instrument of Satan.’[1] The Holy See’s concern was to be expected: Moretti’s previous feature, the Berlusconi-baiting Il Caimano (The Caiman, 2006) did little to disguise its target’s identity, nor its director’s disdain. With multiple scenes of corruption and a daring denouement hinting at civil war, Il Caimano consequently raised heckles amongst the Prime Minister’s supporters when released during an election year; Berlusconi went on to lose.

We Have a Pope’s synopsis certainly carries seeds of blasphemy (which, as it happens, is all lawyer Bruno Volpe had to go on when launching his defamation lawsuit, having refused to watch the offending film).[2] The College of Cardinals congregates in the Vatican to elect a new Pontiff; upon appointment, Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli) suffers an acute crisis of confidence. A psychoanalyst (played by Moretti himself) is summoned to ‘cure’ the Pope of his affliction, but, finding his efforts excessively curtailed (discussion of sex is predictably off-limits, but so too are his childhood, fantasies, dreams and memories), he recommends the Pope visit another analyst incognito, so as to discuss his anxieties more openly. On his first visit to the second therapist’s office, the Pope escapes the watchful eye of the Vatican’s spokesman (Jerzy Stuhr), and re-discovers his dormant passion for theatre whilst traversing the streets of Rome; meanwhile the assembled believers maintain their vigil in St Peter’s Square, patiently awaiting their spiritual leader’s unveiling.

Papal fallibility and hints of corruption in the conclave may be less than reverential, but the satire is far from aggressive; should avowed atheist Moretti have wished, there are numerous scandals with which he could have attacked the Church. Instead, the ecclesiastical crisis is handled compassionately, the result affectionately humanising the upper echelons of an institution desirous of positive PR now more than ever. Similarly, while the set-up might imply some degree of conflict between science and religion, as represented by psychoanalysts and cardinals respectively (‘the concepts of soul and subconscious cannot possibly co-exist’ – ‘we’ll see’), Moretti is willing to mock both sides (the second analyst is fixated on ‘parental deficit’, and prescribes ‘three sessions a week for a couple of years’ after a solitary, short assessment of her patient’s mental health). This possibly explains why, outside the aforementioned examples, the Church’s response has been relatively muted overall, with some Vatican-affiliated commentators going so far as to praise its realistic depiction of Papal burden.[3]

But while less insolent than some might have expected, Moretti’s depiction of the College of Cardinals is nonetheless far from deferential. As the Cardinals gather in the Sistine chapel, reporters camped outside awkwardly explain the electoral process, emphasising that ‘nothing regarding the conclave can filter through to the outside.’ The assumed gravitas of the assembly is, however, undercut when the lights fail in the chapel, causing one hapless Cardinal to trip and fall in the darkness. During the ballot itself, the cardinals act like members of a very different kind of college, resembling schoolboys suffering through a test: copying ‘answers’ from their neighbours; scribbling corrections; tapping desks incessantly with their pens. As the votes are counted, they whisper the unfolding results to one another as if surreptitiously keeping abreast of football scores, all the while praying silently not to be called upon, as if God’s will were akin to a teacher selecting participants for a spelling bee. The following day, three of the visiting cardinals try to sneak out for doughnuts, but are rebuked by their seniors, despite sulky protests that they ‘won’t go far’. Later, when the analyst criticises their excessive diet of prescribed medications (one of the film’s more biting attacks – the clergy literally cannot sleep at night), they turn tattle-tale and grass one another up.

While the Cardinals spend their time acting like children, the Pope-elect is trapped in an act of a different sort. After hesitantly accepting his role as Bishop of Rome, Melville flees the red-curtain-draped balcony (and the adoring, packed audience that await him), his anxiety akin to stage fright. Such theatrical allusions are later made explicit, when the AWOL Pope adopts the guise of an actor so as to conceal his Papacy, citing occupational stresses including ‘travelling from one city to another, the rehearsals [and] the opening night’ as contributors to his agitated state of mind. Back in the Vatican itself, the spokesman spins to press and church alike in order to conceal the full extent of their predicament, whilst a member of the Swiss Guard is drafted in to impersonate the absent Pope, twitching curtains in the private chambers like Home Alone’s Kevin McCallister fending off burglars. But ultimately, it is a more troublingly deep-rooted artifice that torments the reluctant Holy Father. By confessing his fear that ‘God sees abilities in me I don’t have’, he admits to a core self-doubt with which the majority of non-Pontiffs must also contend at one time or another, regardless of individual faith (or lack thereof). Leadership, the film’s conclusion suggests, requires more than a confident fa├žade; courage, on the other hand, can be as simple as recognising as much.

Dr Christopher Buckle
Researcher and freelance writer
University of Glasgow
November 2011

[1] Philip Willan (2011) ‘Pope film sparks Catholic controversy’, The Telegraph, 19 April 2011, accessed at

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ben Child (2011) ‘Nanni Moretti’s pope film receives mixed Vatican verdict’ The Guardian, 19 April 2011, accessed at

Thursday, 1 December 2011

new skinny!

cor blimey, it's practically christmas! since 2011 is all but over (sort of), the last skinny of the year follows custom and rounds up the year's best releases, crowning st. vincent's strange mercy album of the year and the tree of life film of the year. I voted in both polls, but i'll hold off posting my actual favourites in each till i've had a chance to check out all the stuff i've missed...

The Skinny

here's what i contributed:

- album of the year #10: fucked up - 'david comes to life' appraisal (including interview with mr jo)
- album of the year #3: bill wells and aidan moffat - 'everything's getting older' appraisal (including interview with wells and moffat)
- film of the year #3: meek's cutoff appraisal
- film of the year #9: le quattro volte appraisal
- dannananykroyd gig review (read here!)
- take a worm for a walk week review december's singles
- bill wells - 'lemondale' album review (read here!)
- she & him - 'a very she & him christmas' album review (read here!)
- kid chocolat - 'kaleidoscope' album review
- butcher the bar - 'for each a future tethered' album review (read here!)
- poetry dvd review (read here!)

ho ho ho!