Sunday, 23 December 2012

xmas playlist

we survived black eye friday! here's what we played...

1. sally shapiro - anorak christmas
2. built to spill - dystopian dream girl
3. au revoir simone - fallen snow
4. the supremes - santa claus is coming to town
5. aztec camera - walk out to winter
6. gruff rhys - post apocalypse christmas
7. talking heads - the girl wants to be with the girls
8. xtc - thanks for christmas
9. jesus and mary chain - living end
10. asobi seksu - merry christmas (i don't want to fight tonight)
11. dusty springfield - i only want to be with you
12. mitch ryder - jenny take a ride
13. buzzcocks - something's gone wrong again
14. pete shelley - homosapien
15. lcd soundsystem - north american scum
16. purity ring - fineshrines
17. pet shop boys - always on my mind
18. twin shadow - five seconds
19. brenda lee - rockin around the christmas tree
20. kathy and jimmy zee - santa claus rock and roll
21. mabel scott - boogie woogie santa claus
22 dutch uncles - go your own way
23. rem - it's the end of the world (and i feel fine)
24. billy idol - yellin at the christmas tree
25. david bowie - let's spend the night together
26. prince - 1999
27. gang of four - i found that essence rare
28. orange juice - falling and laughing
29. the who - can't explain
30. donna summer - i feel love
31. julian casablancas - i wish it was christmas today
32.the undertones - true confessions
33. joey dee - peppermint twist
34. the ronettes - frosty the snowman
35. the muppets - it feels like christmas
36. mariah carey - all i want for christmas is you
37. the jackson 5 - blame it on the boogie
38. devo - that's good
39. churches - lies
40. kurtis blow - christmas rapping
41. beastie boys - intergalactic
42. the dickies - silent night
43. the ramones - merry christmas (i don't want to fight tonight)
44. barrett strong - money
45. the sonics - the witch
46. kim wilde - kids in america
47. the b-52s - butterbean
48. violent femmes - blister in the sun
49. the stranglers - no more heroes
50. the smiths - is it really so strange
51. idlewild - little discourage
52. abba - gimme gimme gimme
53. ash - girl from mars
54. bruce springsteen - i'm a rocker
55. marlene paul - i wanna spend christmas with elvis
56. elvis presley - suspicious minds
57. the waitresses - christmas wrapping
58. kc and the sunshine band - give it up
59. meatloaf - dead ringer for love
60. j geils band - centrefold
61. the pogues and kirsty maccoll - fairytale of new york
62. the drifters - white christmas

Friday, 21 December 2012



Tuesday, 18 December 2012

december skinny

the december issue of the skinny has been kicking about for a couple of weeks now - here's which bits my rabid fanbase should flick to first...

- albums of the year #5: cloud nothings - 'attack on memory' (interview with dylan baldi - read here!)
- light and shade: the skinny's films of 2012 - 'tabu' and 'the kid with a bike' (read here!)
- 'leap's year: an interview with randolph's leap' feature (read here!)
- bill wells and aidan moffat @ cottiers live review (read here!)
- breathless - 'green to blue' album review (read here!)
- various artists - 'some songs side-by-side' album review (read here!)
- martin rossiter - 'the defenestration of st martin' album review (read here!)
- the douglas firs - 'the furious sound' album review (read here!)
- sinkane - 'mars' album review (read here!)
- a band called quinn - 'red light means go' album review
- steve adey - 'a tower of silence' album review (read here!)
- various artists - 'whatever gets you through the night' album review (read here!)
- 'code name: geronimo' dvd review (read here!)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

leap's year: an interview with randolph's leap

As an eventful 2012 winds down, we get acquainted with Adam Ross of indie-folk ensemble Randolph’s Leap to discuss albums, 'proper' albums, and the perks of Fence patronage.

When Randolph’s Leap christened their 2010 debut EP Battleships and Kettle Chips, they did so with the utmost innocence. “It was weird – I had no idea ‘kettle chips’ was a brand name,” protests founder and frontman Adam Ross. “I thought it was just like ‘crinkle-cut’ or ‘ridge cut’…” So when Kettle Foods Inc. got in touch, Ross naturally assumed the worst. But, in a warming tale of corporate kindness, the company’s response was less litigious than feared. “I was worried we were going to get a cease-and-desist ordering us to stop using their brand name, but they sent us some crisps instead. I will mention that they were almost out-of-date-crisps” Ross adds, lest we get too rosy an impression of the gesture. “We had 32 bags I think – which was a lot of crisps to eat in one week before they went stale…”

Luckily, Ross wasn’t left to tackle this potato mountain alone. A six-piece at the time of Battleships and Kettle Chips, and with a brass section since recruited to bring membership up to eight, Randolph’s Leap has gradually become a many-spoked wheel with Ross the de facto hub. The Nairn-raised songwriter first performed under the name in 2006, and now uses the moniker for both solo ventures and full-band activities. “The idea initially was to take on loads of people so that, on a good day, we can have eight people playing, but then the rest of the time have [whoever’s available],” he explains. “I thought if somebody can’t make it, it wouldn’t matter. But what I found is that whenever we have a rehearsal and somebody isn’t there, you really notice it. Everyone else in the band is a great musician, so they always add something. Everyone else? So he's exempting himself from that? “Er, yeah…” Ross nods. “Three chords and a capo is all I know.”

The complete roster currently stands at Gareth Robert Perrie (keyboards), Vicki Cole (bass), Iain Taylor (drums), Andrew MacLellan (cello), Heather Thikey (violin), Ali Hendry (trumpet) and Fraser Gibson (trombone) – any plans for further expansion? No it would be stupid,” Ross laughs. “I mean, it’s stupid to have eight people in the first place. The logistics of trying to do a tour at the moment, it wouldn’t work, I don’t think – financially, and in terms of everybody getting time off work, stuff like that. We did a gig in London recently, but that’s as far as we’ve gone. So it has its downsides.” But when asked how playing with seven other bodies onstage compares with going it alone, Ross’s preference is clear. “The times I enjoy it most is when the band are just making a racket, and I don’t really need to think about what I’m doing,” he smiles. “During a solo gig or a quiet one, it’s much more nerve-racking because you can hear every cough and every little whisper or comment in the background. Whereas with the full band, the whole audience might be chatting but you don’t know cause you can get lost in your own wee world and pretend you’re Bob Dylan or whoever. If you get a good solo gig it’s great, but they’re a lot harder to pull off – especially when people don’t know who you are. I mean, yeah, if you had thousands of adoring fans who came up and hung on to your every word it’d be great, but most of the time we’re playing to new audiences, and it’s harder to make an impression or create an atmosphere when you’re on your own and terrified. The full band gigs tend to give me a bit more confidence.”

Judging by the recently-released Hermit 7” (the first Randolph’s Leap release to feature the full eight-piece), this confidence translates well to tape. In place of the (to appropriate a lyric of Ross’s) “endearingly shambolic” sound of past releases is a more polished and muscular dynamic; when second track Mutiny releases a blast of distorted guitars and keys, the volume is unexpected but invigorating. “Once we brought the brass in it kind of lifted everything,” says Ross. “It took us up a notch in terms of noise levels. We used to not let Iain play with sticks – very occasionally we’d let him do a gig with sticks, but never a rehearsal as we’d all be deaf by the end of it. Andy has recently been playing electric guitar as well, which seems to work… basically, we’ve become a bit louder, there’s a bit more energy to it.”

One thing that has remained a constant are the lyrics, which are as intelligent, witty and perceptive as ever (for instance: “no man is an island but an archipelago/ is something I could aim for if you’d only let me go”). Ross names Ivor Cutler, Jonathan Richman and Stephin Merritt as key influences in the development of his own distinct lyrical voice. “I’m not comparing myself to any of them, but these are the kind of people that I listened to and something clicked,” he says. “I was like, oh yeah, you don’t have to necessarily sing about being in love with your best friend or being really depressed.” Instead, Ross sings about underdogs and hangovers, feeling squeamish and pretending to luge in the bath, an array of subjects sometimes serious, sometimes silly, but always smartly and affectingly phrased.

Released as part of Fence Records’ Buff Tracks EP series, Hermit caps a year spent under the nurturing wing of the Fife collective (“Just being at Away Game was one of the highlights of the year,” Ross enthuses). For the EP’s sold-out launch gig in October, the support slot was filled by a “songwriter’s circle” of Fence-associates led by label chieftain Johnny Lynch – a show of peer support that Ross still seems pretty chuffed by. “Having been a massive, massive Fence fan for years, that was pretty surreal,” he says. “It was Johnny, Ziggy from FOUND, and Dave from Kid Canaveral taking it in turns to play. They totally upstaged us.”

In addition to Hermit, 2012 saw a wealth of other recordings released under the Randolph’s Leap banner, including two home-recorded albums, each with its own distinct style: the lo-fi cassette hiss of Randolph’s Leap and the Curse of the Haunted Headphones, which mixed acoustic folk with jaunty electro interludes; and the even more stripped-back As Fast as a Man, nine home recordings featuring Ross and Thikey only. Then there’s The Way of the Mollusc, another nine new tracks packaged with Introducing, a compilation of songs featured on previous EPs. That’s a lot of material in one year. “It’s partly the result of taking the lo-fi route a lot of the time, where it’s more instantaneous,” Ross shrugs. “If I’ve got some songs in my head, I can just record them and put them out… I think it’s quite useful nowadays to be able to do that. I think we’ve kind of got it lucky, because of the kind of music we make. The sonic properties don’t have to be at a certain level, it’s more about just the general feeling of the words or whatever, so you don’t have to spend loads recording it. It’s weird though, because people say we’re prolific but we’ve never released, like, a proper album.”

By a ‘proper’ album, Ross means one involving the full band – something they’re currently in the midst of recording. “We’re almost a third of the way there. Having done really, really lo-fi stuff at home that sounds mince, and then having gone to Chem19 to record the Fence EP, our album should be somewhere in between. We’re doing it with Pete [MacDonald] from the State Broadcasters, at his house. I enjoy recording there, without worrying about deadlines and stuff. Chem19 was great, but I was really stressed out, watching the clock the whole time. So it’s nice to be able to take our time over it.”

Randolph’s Leap round out their year with a couple of Christmas parties: the Olive Grove Records shindig at the Glad Café on 14 Dec, and Kid Canaveral’s Christmas Baubles event on Dec 22, where they’ll play alongside Malcolm Middleton, Meursault and many more. Then they’ll welcome in the New Year at Mono’s Hogmanay party (alongside Johnny Lynch and as-yet-unannounced special guests), before commencing an already busy 2013. “We’re playing a gig at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh [16 Feb] which seems pretty daunting cause it’s huge,” Ross laughs nervously. “We’re going to maybe try and have a single ready just before that, and then the album… I don’t know, before summer, hopefully. We’ll just see what happens with that.”

With the crisp windfall engendered by Battleships and Kettle Chips in mind, The Skinny asks whether they’ve considered any copyright-infringing titles for the album. After some pondering, Ross offers a trio of options: Plasma Screens & Levi Jeans and Hazelnut Lattes & Maseratis beckon the more lucrative endorsements, “although truthfully,” he concludes, "I’d be happy with Waterproof Coats & Scott’s Porridge Oats.”

[written for The Skinny]

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

reviews: the douglas firs, sinkane, steve adey

The Douglas Firs - The Furious Sound (****)

Albums about the superstitious persecution of woman are like buses, it seems. A month after Darren Hayman’s The Violence set the witch trials of 17th century Essex to song, The Douglas Firs’ second album The Furious Sound takes inspiration from the earlier North Berwick trials, which resulted in the deaths of around seventy people. Where Hayman weaved accessible narratives, Neil Insh’s project spins out into broader themes and more testing musical terrain, with a sepulchural atmosphere no doubt augmented by the decision to record in darkened woodlands and castle dungeons.

There are mysteries layered throughout its droning, drifting duration; unsettling and insidious on certain tracks (the incantational Devils), gentle on others (the instrumental Black Forest), and always extremely evocative. Like debut Happy as a Windless Flag, The Furious Sound surrenders its secrets slowly but surely, its spectral hymns crafted with great care and likely to haunt thoughts for some time.

Out now

Sinkane - MARS (****)

Wiping the slate of less distinctive past releases, Sinkane (Sudanese New Yorker Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab) presents MARS as a re-boot debut – a fresh start with a refreshed sound. A multi-instrumentalist of some renown (having previously played with Of Montreal, Caribou and Eleanor Friedberger, amongst others), Gallab’s utilised his connections well, coaxing contributions from a number of peers.

Yeasayer’s Jason Trammell occupies the drum stool for several tracks (with bassist Ira Wolf Tuton joining in for Jeeper Creeper’s rolling space-funk); Ann Arbour afro-beat collective NOMO chip in horns on occasion, with Lovesick’s coda especially vibrant; while a smokin’ guitar solo from George Lewis Jr (aka Twin Shadow) ensures Making Time is a super-slick highlight. But Gallab never allows himself to be shunted out of the spotlight, guiding MARS though a diverse but complementary assortment of genres (the disco-funk of wah-wah workout Runnin’; the title track’s abstract jazz) with skilled self-assurance.

Out 17th December

Steve Adey - The Tower of Silence (****)

It’s taken Edinburgh-based songwriter Steve Adey six years to follow up debut album All Things Real, for reasons ranging from tropical maladies to obsessive studio tinkering. While the former militating factor is unfortunate, the latter has paid off nicely, with the bubbling soundscapes of opener A Few Seconds Have Passed establishing The Tower of Silence’s beautifully delicate production.

It’s followed by the sparse and majestic Laughing, its slowcore sadness lifted by the tender interplay between Adey’s rich baritone and the soothing embrace of Helena MacGlip’s background vocals. Just Wait Till I Get You Home reappears from last year’s These Resurrections EP, its steady splendour no less impactful, while With Tongues ventures into new celestial territories, with choral harmonies and electronic blips offering a mid-point breather from the concentrated emotions threaded elsewhere. Unrushed and uncluttered, The Tower of Silence is an album to drink in slowly.


Out now

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Albums of 2012: Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory (interview with Dylan Baldi)

As well as the film list posted last week, this month's issue of the skinny features the music team's top 50 albums of the year. here's the top 10...

1. death grips - the money store
2. django django - django django
3. grimes - visions
4. errors - have some faith in magic
5. cloud nothings - attack on memory
6. el-p - cancer4cure
7. dirty projectors - swing lo magellen
8. godspeed you! black emperor - allelujah! don't bend! ascend!
9. the twilight sad - no one can ever know
10. matthew dear - beams

i put in votes for three of those (grimes, errors, cloud nothings) and since voting have grown rather fond of a further two (godspeed and dirty projectors). so while i can't say i'm much of a fan of the money store, the list as a whole is a good un i reckon.

like the film list, i'm holding off posting my personal list till nearer the end of the year, to give more time to catch up on some things i've not got round to hearing (that matthew dear album just jumped to the top of the pile). in the meantime, here's a small feature i wrote to mark cloud nothings' placement: 

Attack on Memorys introductions came way back in November 2011, when lead single No Future/No Past prowled online to throw expectations askew. Just ten months earlier, Cloud Nothings’ self-titled debut had showcased Dylan Baldi’s condensed, adrenalised pop-punk style superbly, lightly polishing the scruffy no-fi fuzz of his earlier basement recordings (collected as 2010’s Turning On) and seemingly clarifying the scope of his considerable talents.

Galloping on youthful energy and endless hooks, its peppiness was infectious, but while we were smitten, Baldi was already bored. With Cloud Nothings barely out of its shrink-wrap, its creator re-entered the studio, writing and recording its successor in a tight three weeks. The only part the self-titled album played in the process was that I wanted to do something very different since I was really sick of those songs,” explains Baldi. “I liked the idea of us doing something new and confusing people who were familiar with us playing a certain type of music.”

Opening the album with a crescendo of strained howls and crashing cymbals, everything about No Future/No Past seems designed to signpost this change of direction, from its title to its sullen pace to the grungy lack of melody. Wasted Days takes the reinvention/reinvigoration further, rolling and snarling over nine minutes of self-doubt and guitar solos, Baldi screaming mantras of disillusionment. Admittedly, the remainder of the album is less thoroughly divergent, with Stay Useless among those tracks retaining a clear bowline to the band’s punchy, poppier past, but nevertheless, Attack on Memory signals a significant shift in Cloud Nothings’ parameters.

Its intensity is partly attributable to changes in the recording process. Where Cloud Nothings’ sleeve proclaimed ‘all songs written by Dylan Baldi/ all instruments played by Dylan Baldi,’ Attack on Memory saw his long-time live band (Jayson Gerycz on drums, Joe Boyer on guitar and TJ Duke on bass) credited as co-writers and invited into the studio for the first time. “I wrote the songs and lyrics and all that, then the band wrote their own parts around them,” clarifies Baldi. “But we would change things around sometimes. It's really always been that way; I just used to record things on my own instead of with them. We'll definitely approach [future albums] in a similar way – it's a lot more fun to record with other people than by yourself.”

With the last two albums released almost exactly 12 months apart, we ask if Baldi has something lined up for 2013. The answer, excitingly, is yes. “It's shaping up to be a pretty different record than Attack on Memory,” he says of Cloud Nothings’ next move. “Hopefully people are willing to go along with it.” If his personal favourite albums of 2012 are any indication of where his mind’s at (Aaron Dilloway’s avant-noise triple album Modern Jester, Swans’ searing The Seer, a re-release from experimental drone-folk duo Natural Snow Buildings), chances are it’ll force another rethink of where Cloud Nothings are headed, and how much of a racket they’re going to make getting there.

Monday, 10 December 2012

live review: mission of burma @ mono, 5th december

A decade into their second wind, Mission of Burma have arguably set the criterion standard for how to reform a cult act and not only preserve your reputation, but enrich it. Considering they originally split due to guitarist Roger Miller’ chronic tinnitus, the sheer volume tonight is a (welcome) surprise, with Bob Weston keeping the levels loud and the three onstage members playing with undiminished vigour.

While only an explosive That’s When I Reach For My Revolver triggers a room-wide response, there are pockets of enthusiastic appreciation for all corners of their set: a raw-sounding Dust Devil is the pick of the Unsound material, while 2wice (from 2006’s The Obliterati) further attests to the gnarled might of their post-reformation output. But it’s the still-fresh early cuts that leave the deepest boot print, particularly Dirt’s tense, incendiary riffs and a stomping Fame and Fortune in the encore. Mission still accomplished.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

bottle rocket christmas!

There’s magic in the air, frost on the ground and Band Aid in every shop in town: hark, tis almost Christmas! Which means it’s even more almost Bottle Rocket Christmas! It’ll be much like the other 11 bottle rockets of the year, except with 78% more peace, 49% more goodwill, and a bit more Mariah Carey than usual. And with our Christmas party falling on ‘black-eye Friday’ for the first time ever, consider the basement of Nice n Sleazy an inviting stable in which to shelter from the rest of Sauchiehall Street. There’s always room at our inn! (unless we’re full – get down early!)

Requests - particularly those that contain sleigh bells, jolliness or any of the following key terms: ‘Santa’, ‘reindeer’, ‘tree’, or ‘he was roly, he was boly and I said holy moly, you got a lot of whiskers on your chinny chin chin’ - belong on the facebook event wall.

bottle rocket!
Friday 21st December!
11:30pm – 3:00am!
Nice n Sleazy!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

live review: some songs side-by-side album launch @ stereo, 29th november

Since Some Songs Side-By-Side is the debut release from Stereo’s fledgling record label, the bar’s basement space seems the natural place to launch it. Along with co-labels Watts of Goodwill and RE:PEATER, they’ve coaxed three-quarters of the compilation’s contributors out tonight (Muscles of Joy and Sacred Paws being the only absentees), providing a compressed taster of the box set’s contents and affirming why each act was invited to participate in the project in the first place.

Things start on the floor, with the room edging and craning to catch sight of Palms belting through a short set of terse hooks and galvanic, rough-hewn post-punk. With six bands to squeeze in, there’s no dawdling: a swift changeover and The Rosy Crucifixion are plugged in and laying down tremolo-hammering rock n roll of a surf and greaser vintage, making an old set of influences sound very fresh indeed.

Gummy Stumps follow in a fashion entirely their own: Colin Stewart’s gruff barks and the eclectic racket strummed and drummed beneath remain a singular composite, with Silver Sliver their performance’s craggy crest. Things move up on to the stage for Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gates Lock Pickers, plying their strutting rhythm and blues with panache. A splash of Psy in Mary Hell turns heads, while The Grace of God is a downcast delight.

While there have been drop ins and drop outs throughout the evening, Organs of Love are the first act to play to a noticeably less attentive crowd. But it doesn’t last long, as the duo’s brand of moody, off-kilter electro extends wispy tendrils to refocus drifters. Finally, Tut Vu Vu bring the event to a close, with their wonky and wild fusion of polyrhythmic jazz and playful prog-rock undertones crowning an excellent night with its final flourish.

Friday, 7 December 2012

gft programme note: the hunt


Please note that this article contains spoilers.

With accusations of child molestation at its core, The Hunt is a kind of companion piece to director Thomas Vinterberg’s break-through feature Festen (1998). But where Festen’s dramatic beat came from the exposure of a hidden truth (specifically a dark family history of sexual abuse), The Hunt presents the effects of a public falsehood, dramatising the way rumour insidiously percolates throughout a community, smearing reputations and destroying lives. A small lie begets huge consequences for wrongly accused nursery assistant Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), branded a paedophile due to a series of knee-jerk assumptions and errors in judgement. His descent from community pillar to pariah makes clear the suffering that a wayward canard can inflict, its target tainted by association regardless of guilt.

Like the deer caught in the crosshairs in the first of the film’s hunting scenes, Lucas is oblivious to and powerless against the dangers headed his way. To assert his innocence gives away nothing – unlike, for example, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt (2008), in which a priest is accused of molesting a young member of his parish and his guilt left ambiguous, Vinterberg and cowriter Tobias Lindholm make plain from the outset that Lucas is wronged against, not wronging; a victim of circumstance to be pitied, rather than a perpetrator to be punished. The film’s opening seconds teach a potted lesson in this regard: the screen is initially kept dark, and we hear unfamiliar sounds followed by men shouting. For a moment the effect is mildly threatening, until matched to its image: a hunting party merrily daring each other to leap in a freezing lake. This manipulation of tone seems to carry a warning: don’t jump to conclusions.

But while the taut script does not permit doubts in the audience, it does manage to believably delineate how and why such doubts form in the minds of Lucas’s neighbours, colleagues and even his closest friends. When the sad and lonely Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) tells her naïve lie to head teacher Gerthe (Susse Wold), the latter is visibly (and understandably) unsettled. While Gerthe initially expresses open-mindedness, objectively attempting to rationalise the child’s claims, it is soon apparent that, once an idea of such unpleasantness has formed, it becomes difficult to shake. As a result, once-unquestioned behaviour is re-contextualised as sinister, with Lucas’s friendliness and affection for the children scoured for ulterior motives. A repeated game, in which the children ambush Lucas as he arrives at work, demonstrates this parallax shift: on the first occasion, the children blithely swarm around Lucas, squealing with excitement as they playfully attack; on the second, Lucas pre-empts their impish trap by sneaking over a fence and reversing the roles, his harmless roughhousing watched over by a newly suspicious Gerthe. The headteacher’s subsequent actions are highly injudicious, aggravating a flippant accusation and generating an assumption of guilt that spreads throughout the town. But while some reviewers (even those positive about the film’s other qualities) have taken this as evidence of implausibility or “crude” plotting,[1] Vinterberg at least gives a sense of how emotions can override logic in the (apparent) presence of such abhorrent misdeeds. Mistakes are made, but without exception, characters act with the personal conviction that they are doing the right thing, with the best interests of the children at heart.

A scene in which an unspecified specialist interviews Klara to ascertain whether there is validity to her allegation underscores just how delicate ‘truth’ can be. His leading questions layer Klara’s vague fib with imaginary and prejudicial detail, moving from open questions (“Tell me what Lucas did”), to closed (“Did he show you his willy here in the nursery?”), speculating both act and location and simply asking Klara to confirm. Throughout the scene, children can be heard playing outside; as Klara distractedly glances over her shoulder, she is told that if she answers the question she’ll be allowed to join them, coaxing her to ratify the lie. When Grethe subsequently meets with Klara’s mother, her language is unequivocal. “Something has occurred…” Grethe firmly states, tailing off with a haunted “the things she said…” But, as the audience has just witnessed, Klara has ‘said’ very little. This process of external reinforcement is repeated later: having been advised that Klara will likely recant her accusation out of embarrassment, a genuine attempt to come clean is dismissed, her mother stressing “listen Klara, it did happen”.

Misinterpretations are rife. When other parents are warned that their children may also have been abused, they are told to look for symptoms including nightmares and bedwetting – genuine indicators of abuse in some circumstances, but also broad behavioural traits shared by many children of pre-school age. More accusations inevitably follow, the rising hysteria echoing Arthur Miller’s witch-hunt parable The Crucible. But though rejected affections play a part, Klara is no Abigail Williams-figure exacting deliberate revenge, but rather a confused child acting without malice. What The Hunt does share with Miller’s play, however, is a claustrophobic, nightmarish helplessness – a their-word-against-yours indictment near-impossible to defend against.

In the wake of last month’s Newnight scandal – in which Tory peer Lord McAlpine was erroneously identified as a paedophile following a flawed investigation by the BBC – The Hunt could scarcely be more topical to UK audiences. When the blunder became clear, journalist George Monbiot (one of several to name McAlpine on Twitter) was quick to apologise, in words that resonate with the events depicted in Vinterberg’s film. “I helped to stoke an atmosphere of febrile innuendo around an innocent man, and I am desperately sorry for the harm I have done him” Monbiot wrote. “I allowed myself to be carried away by a sense of moral outrage. As a result, far from addressing an awful injustice, I contributed to one.”[2] As well as dramatising the potential consequences of such unbridled moral outrage, The Hunt sympathetically attempts to unpick some of its causes.

Christopher Buckle
Journalist and researcher
December 2012

[1] Geoffrey Macnab (2012) ‘The Hunt Review’, Sight and Sound, accessed 02/12/12 at
[2] George Manbiot (2012), ‘Lord McAlpine – An Abject Apology’, accessed 03/12/12 at

Thursday, 6 December 2012

live review: shearwater @ broadcast, 27th november

With Animal Joy ranking amongst their best work, Shearwater feel like one of 2012’s great overlookeds, their seventh album receiving only a fraction of the attention it deserves. However, the fact they remain inexplicably niche carries a silver lining for those assembled in Broadcast for the band’s second swing through Glasgow this year, with the venue’s small size helping foster a particularly intimate performance (“the best thing about this place is the low overheads,” jokes/forecasts Jonathan Meiburg of the ceiling’s close proximity).

“Tour lurgy” has left Meiburg feeling robbed of some range, but a thunderous sound compensates ably, imbuing tracks like Animal Life and Castaway with real power. In the encore, Meiburg invites requests and selflessly selects the one most testing to his ravaged voice-box, stretching for every high note of a solo Hail, Mary and setting hairs on edge. As the full band exit the stage, Meiburg’s hand goes through the aforementioned low ceiling, branding the fledgling venue with a memory of the evening and delivering an irresistible metaphor: a fist raised in triumph that confirms they’re destined for bigger things.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

dvd review: code name geronimo - the hunt for osama bin laden

Airing in the US just days before last month’s election, SEAL Team 6 (as it was then titled) caused a minor outrage, attracting accusations that distributor and Obama-supporter Harvey Weinstein was trying to influence ‘undecideds’ with a strategically-timed reminder of the President’s first-term accomplishments. Obama went on to secure a second term, of course, but this badly-conceived dramatisation of the raid on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound is unlikely to have swayed even the most easily-manipulated of voters.

While its military re-enactments create a certain amount of tension, the lead-up is hokey and unconvincing, as the filmmakers strain to inscribe personality on a cast of ciphers through hackneyed backstories and substantial guesswork. It’s the latter flaw that rankles most: by rushing into production before the dust had settled, Operation Geronimo is left looking ill-informed and sapped of credibility. Hopefully Kathryn Bigelow’s forthcoming Zero Dark Thirty will offer a more considered take on events, with a more appropriate degree of moral complexity.

Out 24th December

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

the skinny's films of the year...

tis the season to be jolly, which means it's also the season to survey the preceding year and assemble ranked lists of favourite albums/films/tracks/etc. why? the same reason for half the stuff people do around christmas: tradition!

the skinny began its culture countdowns with the film section's top 10 movies of the year:

1. the raid (dir. gareth evans)
2. tabu (dir. miguel gomes)
3. moonrise kingdom (dir. wes anderson)
4. looper (dir. rian johnson)
5. about elly (dir. asghar farhadi)
6. the turin horse (dir. béla tarr, agnes hranitzky)
7. this is not a film (dir. jafar panahi, motjaba mirtahmasb)
8. the kid with a bike (dir. jean-pierre and luc dardenne)
9. the master (dir. paul thomas anderson)
10. holy motors (dir. leos carax)

the full article, with wee write-ups of each, can be read here. from that list, i lodged votes for tabu, moonrise kingdom, the turin horse, this is not a film, the kid with a bike and holy motors, so it's nice to see so many of my favourites reflected in the final run-down. the fill article includes each contributor's individual choices in full, though i'm going to hold off posting mine since i'll undoubtedly tweak it a dozen more times before the year is out... 

for now, here are the two reappraisals i penned, singing the praises of tabu and the kid with a bike respectively.

Months after its release, Tabu nestles in the cerebrum not as a dazzling, enigmatic whole (which it undoubtedly is), but as a series of indelible images: a glassy-eyed crocodile submerged in still waters; a solitary woman transfixed by flickering celluloid; a colonial explorer shadowed by a spectre. With these images come echoes of its soundtrack, particularly the erudite voiceover that extends throughout the second half, silencing dialogue and fostering a disconcerting nonpareil tone. Memory, with its mysteries and vagaries, proves Tabu’s natural habitat, the power of these fragments corroborated by a narrative steeped in romance and nostalgia. Formally audacious and thematically opulent, Tabu is a treasure trove to be pored over. 

The Kid with a Bike
Warming hearts and rending them in equal measures, The Kid with a Bike’s impactful drama is built on small moments and big gestures. The latter comes from the virtuous Samantha (Cécile de France) and her selfless decision to foster ten-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret), weathering the young boy’s storm of emotions – anger, sadness, confusion – in the hope of easing his pain. The former, meanwhile, signifies the storytelling prowess of the film’s creators Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who craft their latest neorealist masterpiece from little details: a collision between two strangers; a frustrated outburst; a thrown stone. The results are acutely poignant, with an all-too-rare optimism and a finely felt sense of compassion.