Leeds Festival Weekend Review 2014


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Leeds Fest 2014 began with an extra-early bang, with the introduction of bands and comedians on the Thursday night.

I myself plumped for the madcap comedic stylings of Adam Buxton, the bearded half of 90’s comedy duo Adam & Joe, as a result of the tirade of rain which unleashed itself on the site on Thursday evening. Whilst the comedy tent itself offered shelter from the elements, Buxton’s wacky style of humour failed to warm many of the on-lookers, although his unique blend of using his laptop to show us all strange goings-on from the internet, to his own home videos was a great idea for a comedy show- I can imagine if it wasn’t the precursor to a weekend of music and camping, it would be pretty enjoyable.

As it was, once the rain had cleared, it was over to the Relentless Stage, situated in a tree-lined strip inbetween the thriving campsites of Red and Orange, following the closure of the stage during 2013’s torrential weather. DJ’s like Zane Lowe, DJ Fresh and Klaxons were due for the three days, but we had fun nonetheless as the riotous atmosphere was a great set-up for the upcoming weekend.

With a few bleary eyes and banging heads (althoughI like to blame that on camping just a tad too close to the campsite DJ!), Friday was kicked off for me with a slice of the ultra-cool Jungle. A mysterious act made up of an array of vocalists, guitarists, keyboardists and drummers, many of whom do some serious multi-tasking, the West London band were pretty excellent. Sure extensive falsetto vocals can wane on even the most hardened of fans after a while, but when the beats were as fresh and bouncy as they were in the NME/Radio tent, you don’t mind. After an excellent LP and summer festival shows, they have proven there worth, even getting a pre-Clean Bandit crowd to loosen up and lose themselves in the sultry grooves.

Band of the moment, Clean Bandit were next up, and showed surprisingly that there is more to them than mega-hit ‘Rather Be’. No, their live show was assured, confident and FUN! Their unique twist on the genre is intriguing, throwing in classical music influences alongside the bass beats we’re more accustomed too, aswell as the familiarity of guest vocalists peppering the majority of tracks. They weren’t mind-bending, but packed out the tent and offered heaps of fun and innocent pop music for those who wanted it.

The Kooks are another band that bring back memories of adolescence for those of a certain age, and their new wave of sound, with increased R&B influences did certainly not disappoint. Infact, whilst they didn’t match solid favourites ‘Naïve’ and ‘Seaside’ for the sing-a-long aspect, it’s arguable that new singles ‘Down’ and ‘About Town’ were the best performances of their set. The new album releases this week, and it’ll be very interesting to see whether it can revive what many thought to be another band lost to the ages. Based on this performance, the Kooks could stay with us for while.

To many Macklemore & Ryan Lewis seem wildly out of place on a Reading & Leeds bill, their chart-friendly beats and raps surely not acceptable at such a venue? Such things are simply not true though, as Macklemore proved with a friendly, yet humoured stage presence and half a set of gold. That is the one issue I had with this set, it was far too long for the one album rapper, who actually, rather embarrassingly, played the same song twice. But that aside, his song introductions may have been to mask the extended set length, but he made it work- just.

Man-children, blink-182 made it three times they had headlined both Reading and Leeds sites, the first for four years and ahead of a new album rumoured to be released to the world by the turn of 2014.

Kicking off with ‘Feeling This’, the US rockers breezed through their set, peppering song breaks with some genuinely crude, hilarious humour and entertaining the masses excellently with their extensive back catalogue.The crowd of course reacted magnificently to all-time hit ‘All The Small Things’, but then this was Friday night of Leeds 2014, it was heaving and pits were breaking out all over the inside barrier.

The trio of songs that made up the encore summed up the evening for the Americans; ‘Violence’ a breath-taking tune that allows every band member to step up to the plate, ‘Dammit’ a veritable classic that the first strokes of the guitar riff sent everyone into a fit of excitement, and ‘Family Reunion’, a 40 second tune that manages to pack in all of the band’s trademark crude humour in an expletive-ridden blast.

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One way to blast out any morning cobwebs are Derbyshire duo, Drenge. The much-hyped two are loud and fast, known for thrashing away at their instruments and barely stopping to acknowledge their audience. This mid-afternoon slot was not dissimilar to the expectations, they were impressive if straightforward, more new tunes alongside those from their self-titled LP would’ve been nice, but after a year of touring, I’d expect them to hit the studio and get more content to take their live show truly to the next level.

Firm R&L festival favourites, Enter Shikari appeared for their sixth straight festival (in more than one guise!), with circle hits in abundance as frontman Rou Reynolds took time to sprint across the Main Stage, kick out at amps and generally cause a bit of a racket- but a good racket nonetheless! Shikari have grown at this festival, as has their sound, but they know how to work their crowd and how to entertain the masses, even if they’ve never truly broken out into the mainstream, but you know what…I think they prefer things that way!

Vampire Weekend were a band I had been waiting to see ever since their inception as an act, a trio of album in and the NYC collective were incredible. They hit every right note, from Exra Koening having the nerve to play the set in a full grey tracksuit, to the imperious moods they created, from the heart-melding ‘Walcott’ the riotous ‘A-Punk’, to an exclusive track never played live before, ‘California English’, they were exceptional. The start of the set saw one of the day’s torrential downpours, but by its crescendo, the sun was beating down on a magnificent performance.

Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age were up first, having closed the previous night at Reading. The band put on a simply brilliant rock show, with thrills in the shape of some impressive laser-shows and some mind-melting guitar-driven beasts of songs. The energy from the band was subtle, growing and growing with each tune. ‘No One Knows’ as song number two was a daring choice, but paid off handsomely as newbies ‘My God Is The Sun’ and ‘Smooth Sailing’ more than benefitted from the buzz generated. Classics like ‘Feel Good Hit of The Summer’ and ‘Make It Wit Chu’ ensured that ardent fans were catered for too, although personally I felt that the fresher songs from 2013’s ‘…Like Clockwork’ were those more warmly received and those better performed generally.

The last coupling of ‘Go With The Flow’ and ‘A Song For The Dead’ were awesome. The latter allowed drummer Jon Theodore to take centre stage, with a sizzling drum solo, it was a song that the band performed with such intensity and vigour, it was hard to take your eyes away from it. And that was that from Queens, a band who managed to surpass my sky-high expectations.

Hoping to shake off the electrical problems which had plagued them the previous night at Reading, Hayley Williams and Paramore, started off by complimenting QOTSA and brought out an extensive light show as they closed the night. The first half of the show was full of the old fan favourites, with a big sing-a-long for ‘The Only Exception’. As a result, the second lacked the punch of the first, with many of the recent self-titled record, which featured a distinct change of sound, making it up. I felt Williams was as good a leader as a band could hope for, fully of charisma and energy, but the performance didn’t connect with myself as much as it did with the ravenous crowd, who screamed and applauded for Williams and co in their droves.

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Closing off the night the co-headliners rocked with a stint in the Silent Disco was a good choice. The tent, which had to be closed in 2013 due to high winds, was packed to the brim and offered great variety of current and past pop hits on one channel, with the other devoted to the rock the Reading & Leeds fanbase are more accustomed too. However, it was nice mixing it up every now and then, the atmosphere crackling into life every time a sing-song came on, with each DJ encouraging their sides to make some noise, always a great experience.

The last day of Leeds Fest 2014 saw the much-anticipated Royal Blood finally play, ahead of their just released debut LP. It was a fast, frenetic set which saw the bass and drum duo tear apart the Radio 1/NME tent, packing it out and then some at two in the afternoon, a pretty decent achievement at the end of a weekend chocced full of live music. I can certainly see them making their way up the R&L bill in the future.

Another band I’ve kept my eye on for a while are Brummie starlets, Peace. Possibly the most popular of the current crop of B-town talent, the indie rock outfit made their maiden Main Stage appearance and had a sizeable crowd, their fans amongst the most passionate of the modern day indie era. It was nice for new single ‘Money’ to get an outing, and their new material may swing towards a more poppy sound, but if the UK is to re-start its Britpop scene, look no further than these guys.

Next up was a guaranteed party with the madcap antics of The Hives. Sure they’d released no new material since last appearing at the festival in 2012, but they really didn’t need to, as they performed a masterful set dripping full of favourites like ‘Main Offender’ and ‘Walk Idiot Walk’, beginning with the customary ‘Come On!’, descending into a crowd sit-in and ending with the front section losing it to ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’. Sure, I heard some complaints about frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s extended crowd interaction…but I loved it!

I caught only the backend of Foster the People’s Main Stage set, but from what I saw I regretted not seeing the previous half-an-hour. A more mellow version of ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ was pretty memorable, but more than anything they were a band full of confidence and had some good crowd interaction, you got the feeling they were genuinely excited and ecstatic to be with thousands of us in a field in Yorkshire.

One band who’ve had an incredible 12 months are Imagine Dragons, going from a smallish spot on the NME tent last year, just before they made it big, to collaborating with Kendrick Lamar, selling bucketloads of their debut record and making it up to third on the bill on the Main Stage. Again, frontman Dan Reynolds was immensely likeable and thankful for being up there, complimenting R&L for believing in them when no one else would and taking a chance on them. Crowd favourites, ‘Demons’ and ‘Amsterdam’ peppered the set, before a cover of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ paved the way for the rendition of ‘Radioactive’ Leeds had been waiting for. Album number two should bring more exciting times ahead for the Las Vegas act.

Bombay Bicycle Club were as charming as ever as they headlined the NME/Radio 1 Tent, packing it to the rafters, as slices were taken from 2014 album ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’, most notably ‘Feel’, ‘It’s Alright Now’ and ‘Luna’. I’d seen the polished show around the time of the album’s release, but it was nice to see it having been developed and smoothed out for a festival crowd. Collaborators Rae Morris and Liz Lawrence added that little bit extra to one of the most satisfying hour the weekend had to offer.

From the NME tent, it was a mad dash to see the band most had been waiting for the entire weekend; Arctic Monkeys. The Main Stage field was packed as far as the eye could see, as the Yorkshire quartet cemented their status as one of the biggest rock bands in the world, even if their set wasn’t entirely perfect.

One look at the setlist would tell you the Arctics dusted off all the favourites, alongside extended coverage of latest record ‘AM’, but the performance was rather erratic, as frontman Alex Turner was occasionally slurry in his delivery and a bit out of it, plus the performances of songs like ‘Brianstorm’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ lacked their usual rapid rhythm, for whatever reason. But come the end of the set, it was hard to come away having not enjoyed at least a portion of the set, whether you were an old or a new fan, there was something for everyone in this intriguing 90 minutes.

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And that was that for Leeds 2014, another grand Bank Holiday weekend with stacks of memorable moments and top performances by some of the most exciting acts on the planet, Leeds ’15 can’t come quickly enough!

Film Round-Up! The Kings of Summer, About Time, Prisoners


Hey! My blog has been neglected recently due to university starting up again and work commitments, however, I thought I’d come back with a little round-up of the films I’ve seen within the last month or so, they’re all pretty varied but here goes…

The Kings of Summer

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 ‘The Kings of Summer’, is a coming-of-age tale with a difference, managing to meld together comedy and drama in equal doses, with offbeat humour taking centre stage alongside some truly heartbreaking moments

We focus on three teens; Joe, a lad determined to be as far away as possible from his miserable dad, played monstrously well by ‘Parks & Rec’s’ star Nick Offerman. Then it’s over to Patrick, Gabriel Basso, a semi-miserable wrestler who wants out from his awful, awful Irish-American parents.

And Biaggio.

Biaggio, played by Moses Arias, is a strange, nutcase of a character. He looks about 30, but is incredibly is only 19, has a mysterious South American background and is a general unknown. He is the star of this film, and he sort of knows it, Arias, a man whose previous best known work was in ‘Hannah Montana’, is a revelation. He’s the character that has you falling about with laughter throughout the film.

Well, these three band together and decide to build themselves a house in a forest, wanting to disappear from their families and society itself. The premise is the ultimate coming-of-age tale, as the lads realise what a massive undertaking this is, and just how much they have to learn. It’s funny seeing it myself, now from the other side of these awkward teen years, as I can almost relate to the feelings they have at times, but, like many, would never have the balls to go through with it.

That being said, it’s certainly a fantasy, if you stopped and thought about certain aspects the realism would be lost. However, with the appearance of bands like MGMT and The Orb, on the soundtrack a psychedelic, chilled sense is pretty much always present.

Back to the main trio, and whilst Biaggio may steal the film, Joe, played by the up-and-coming Nick Robinson, gives him a run for his money . He reminds me hugely of James Franco, both in looks and his charisma, of which he has bucketloads. With news of him grabbing a lead role in next summer’s ‘Jurassic World’, just coming out, it’s likely the world will get to see a lot of him, and he really deserves it based on this performance.

The film itself is a huge success, dicing between the humour, which the three adolescents handle magnificently and some heartbreak, leading to an unexpectedly tense finale, in which you discover that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has really made you care about these characters, the lot of them from the three lads, to Offerman’s hilarious dad, a very understate role, right over to ‘Community’ star Alison Brie and her troubled relationships, as Joe’s sister and Offerman’s daughter.

It’s great stuff, and was seen by far too little a number of people this summer, with a small cinematic release, leading to a quick release on DVD & Blu-Ray, if you missed it the first time round, do yourself a favour and pick it up this time!

9/10

About Time

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I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t exactly bursting with excitement at the prospect of going to see ‘About Time’. A Richard Curtis rom-com wasn’t what I fancied, but hey why not give it a chance?

If you actually look into ‘About Time’, you’ll find it a quite interesting concept. It gives the standard rom-com a kick up the arse, with a time travel power that every male in the family of Tim (Domnhall Gleeson, son of Brendan) has. Bill Nighy is the father figure, who reveals news of this surprising development to his son after a disappointing New Year’s Eve party.

Nighy and Gleeson have instant chemistry, despite looking nothing like one another, and you believe in their relationship from the offset, an important feature, that helps the second half of the film come alive.

Tim uses the powers to help find him a girlfriend, and the film has its premise, with Rachel McAdams dropping into his life. The pair, again, work well together, despite McAdams’ US accent not really fitting in this typical British rom-com.

Whilst the first hour or so focuses on the relationship between the two, and its gradual development over time, I’m talking proposal-marriage-children, the lot, the second hour focuses on family relationships, most notably the father-son one, something that I enjoyed immensely.

I’d heard that after the film tonnes of people rang up their dad’s just to check up on them, I myself settled for a text, but it is a really great feeling that it manages to produce, one that sucked me into the film and didn’t leave me on the outside, a snide critic.

It does suffer from a few rom-com clichés, but Curtis is known for that. He’s also gone for some cushioned jokes, and the rules behind the time travelling are stated at times, but not really stuck to at all. If you really think about it, it doesn’t make much coherent sense, but then it isn’t a film that you’re meant to pick apart that thoroughly.

For all its slushiness, for all its flaws, ‘About Time’ isn’t all that bad, a rom-com I could put up with, and the message being that you should enjoy your life to the max, time travelling or not time travelling!

6.5/10

Prisoners

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A dark, twisted thriller that isn’t recommended to any parents of small children (or big for that matter), ‘Prisoners’, is a slow-burner, twisting about a bit, before the final few reveals that you really won’t see coming. It’s no wonder that the film has had such success here in the UK, for Jake Gyllenhall and Hugh Jackman lead a range of great acting performances, as Detective Loki (no not that Loki) and the father one of one of the missing girls.

It’s brutal and Jackman really verges into his dark, Wolverine-esque territory with some savage torturing of suspect Paul Dano, his character a bumbling, helpless man-child. But as the film descends into darkness, we see what truly makes a good man, and what can make a good man turn bad in some wonderful character transformations.

Gyllenhall is as good as he has ever been in his role as Loki, a detective proud of his 100% success rate in turning over crime case verdicts, and his assignment to this one isn’t about to break it. It’s the little nuances, like his eye-twitch and savage attention-to-detail, that make the character as good as it is.

A top, top thriller that you must see!

8/10

Cheers!

Steve McClaren appointed Derby County Head Coach


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Steve McClaren (middle) with his new coaching staff, Eric Steele (left), goalkeeping coach, Paul Simpson (right), first-team coach, and their chief executive Sam Rush (second from right).

After a day or two of speculation, Derby County Football Club have announced the swift arrival of ex-England and Nottingham Forest boss Steve McClaren as their new head coach.

McClaren, fresh from a recent coaching spell at fellow Championship side QPR, signs a two-and-a-half year deal with the Rams, returning to the club where he had stints on the playing and coaching staff in the 80’s and 90’s respectively.

He is most likely remembered for his short-lived year and a half in the England job back in 2006-7, before he found success in Holland, with FC Twente, winning the Eredivisie in season 2009-10, also leading to the infamous clips of McClaren speaking in broken ‘Dutchlish’ with local media.

The Rams have also added ex-fan favourite Paul Simpson as a first-team coach, with Fergie’s old Manchester United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele also joining.

It puts the futures of departed manager Nigel Clough in major doubt, with Johnny Metgod, Andy Garner, Gary Crosby and Martin Taylor, all having been placed on gardening leave, late on Sunday evening.

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McClaren during his second stint at Derby, as assistant coach to Jim Smith during 1995-99.

Chief Executive Sam Rush has also stated that a new technical director will be appointed ‘in the near future’, to concentrate on scouting for future recruits.

It’s all part of a new system the hierarchy at Pride Park are establishing to help improve the chances of a return to the top echelons of English football.

McClaren won’t be in charge for the visit of Ipswich Town tomorrow, academy manager Darren Wassall instead taking the senior reigns.

Instead his first game in charge will be the fiery home clash against Leeds United this coming Saturday.

It will be a tough task for the Rams, especially given the furore from fans, local and national media over Clough’s sacking, but in my view McClaren is probably the best available man for the job, his favoured style of play similar to the one Clough had already established.

With over 30 games left to play in the Championship this season, it should certainly be an interesting one for all at Pride Park.

Music: The return of Arcade Fire!


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Canadian experimentalists Arcade Fire are back with a brand new single from their upcoming album, ‘Reflektor’.

The single is entitled, ‘Reflektor’, also, is produced by ex-LCD Soundsystem man James Murphy and even features guest backing vocals from the legend himself, David Bowie!

The song takes a lot of Murphy’s disco based influences and fuses it together with the sound of the band’s last album, 2010’s ‘The Suburbs’, with pianos, a fantastic riff and some 70’s catchy drum beats.

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The 7 minute long epic is challenging, yet familiar, hitting just the right spot. Husband and wife duo, Win Butler and Regine Chassange, the band’s leaders, along with their five other members, have really got it spot on here, Win’s voice protruding as one of the most recognisable of his generation, and Regine’s delicate French vocals offering some beautiful respite from her partners.

What starts off as a steady tune, develops around the halfway mark, turning more and more complex with added layers thrown into the mix, the melodrama turned to 11, with pianos, vocals and guitars being trashed simultaneously, to create a wall of thundering sound, that is VERY pleasing to the ears.

It was released last night amidst high anticipation levels online, with the band’s mysterious viral campaign, of 9/9/13 @ 9pm, working a charm. The band turned up at Montreal in a surprise fancy dress gig, emulating their caricatured-selves in the video for the song (at the bottom of the page).

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This song is a great taster of what should be a savage double-LP, with the age of disco seemingly returning to the mainstream once again, Daft Punk finding huge success in the old genre, but this time in the unlikely form of Arcade Fire It may not be their best piece of work to date although it runs the likes of ‘Rebellion (Lies)‘ and ‘Wake Up‘, very closely in my humble opinion.

October the 28th cannot come any quicker!

Film Review: Rush (2013)


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Ron Howard’s F1 epic semi-biopic,’Rush’, is finally here. Hyped up by the likes of ‘Top Gear’ and well publicized by Howard himself at various F1 races over the current season, fans of the sport and the two drivers the film focuses on, James Hunt and Niki Lauda, were expectant of a faithful, yet exciting representation of F1’s glory days back in the 1970’s. Well, I can report that this film is brilliant, one of the best I have seen this year, with a great mixture of action, drama and humour, all in manageable doses. And considering this is a ‘Hollywood’-isation of events, it is a grounded, only very rarely over-dramatic piece of work.

Director Howard has managed to produce a film for  not just fans of the sport though. Sure it has plenty of race action, which is an amazing recreation of the real deal, but the film gets under the skin of both drivers, showing reasonable doses of their own private lives, which held remarkable parallels over time. The splicing together of the new and old footage is great too, with the old footage of the two drivers at the end serving as a nice bookend to the film, and frequently appearing on TV screens. Whilst the newly created footage, using some stunning techniques by Howard and his team, is exhilarating, using the real cars from the era, and taking in some of the classic tracks like Brands Hatch, Circuit Paul Ricard and the infamous Nurburgring. Infact the first time the grid starting up their engines, I’m not ashamed to say I got major goosebumps!

Anyway, back to the story. ‘Rush’, is all about two men: James Hunt, a raging, sex-obsessed, boozy Brit, perhaps the epitome of the 70’s as a decade, and his rival for the 1976 season, Niki Lauda, a quiet, calculated Austrian, who ‘bought’ his way into the sport. We go back to the pair’s Formula 3 days, where the first clash between the two occurs. Fastforward a few years, and it’s F1, the big time, Hunt at McLaren, Lauda at Ferrari…game on!

Being a huge F1 fan, but not being too well informed on the past glories of the sport was a perfect position for me. I had a vague idea of what was going to happen, but nothing concrete like the death of Ayrton Senna, as documented in the awesome, ‘Senna’. I won’t spoil any of, ‘Rush’, but it is obvious why it has been made into a film, the story is incredible!

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The two leads, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds), are exceptional. Hemsworth is perfect as the cocksure, seemingly care-free Hunt, with a striking similarity to the Brit. He also channels his inner Brit in his accent, with it sounding a little bit Thor-ish at times, but mainly spot on. Hunt is the source of humour, as anyone who has ever heard of him will know, and Hemsworth laps it up, showing great versatility, considering his only major roles beforehand have been as the ‘action hero’.

Bruhl is a revelation as Lauda, we all know Hemsworth can act a bit, but Bruhl, a Spanish-born German actor. He works well as the meticulous Austrian, and can act well in English and German, showing that aside from a nominal part in Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious’, that he’s ready to join the English-speaking film world. You can tell he’s fully immersed himself as Lauda, and everything that comes with that, at times he is annoying, at others you feel immense empathy with him, it’s a great role, and if the film is seen by as many people as it is deserved to be seen by, he could be an outside shot at some awards nominations come the New Year.

Other cast members, include Olivia Wilde as Hunt’s supermodel wife, Suzy Miller and Alexandra Maria Lara, as Lauda’s Marlena. The two are mainly restricted to being emotional weights on the two drivers, and it’s a shame they don’t have a lot else to do other than watch their men racing or suffering due to their racing. Brits and ‘Green Wing’, alumni Julian Rhind-Tutt and Stephen Mangan are great as Hunt’s two managers, throughout the years, and as a ‘Green Wing’, fan it was both funny and surprising to see them pop up.

The soundtrack to this film is magical. Strictly speaking the raw, primal roars of the F1 cars aren’t a part of the soundtrack, but every time you hear them, you know something big is coming! The race starts, as I mentioned earlier, are great moments, seeming as authentic as possible, matching the great action on-screen. Songs by David Bowie and Mud enlighten the airwaves in the background, whilst the main player, Hans Zimmer, brings a cello-based score, a perfect accompaniment to the action and drama, adding a deeper layer of drama when needs be.

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With amazing racing scenes never seen before, a great, real script from Peter Morgan, that captures the glamour, the danger and the politics of 1970’s Formula 1 and enough humour and drama to match, ‘Rush’, is a great film. It may suffer from F1’s lack of popularity in the US, but I’d expect the racing mad fans around the world to lap up this excellent piece of work. It helps that we see prominent action in Japan, Germany, the UK, Spain and with a nice worldwide cast, it should do some good business aswell as garner critical praise. In all honesty, similar to ‘Senna’, you can neither know anything about F1 or like it, but there will still be a part of ‘Rush’, you’ll enjoy. Be it the cars, sound, action, lead performances, or simply the captivating stories of James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

8.5/10

Music Review: Arctic Monkeys, ‘AM’ (2013)


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One of Britain’s most popular rock bands going at the minute, the Arctic Monkeys are back, with their fifth album, ‘AM’, full of scuzzy guitar riffs, falsetto vocals and songs fit for the arenas they regularly tour. The 41-minute album isn’t any massive breakthrough for the Sheffield band though, perhaps edging them more towards the mainstream, especially with singles like, ‘Do I Wanna?’, a recent chart success.

It’s with the cutting riff and stomping drum beat of the aforementioned single that the album starts, and it has certainly grown on me since its initial release. Another previously released song appears next, ‘R U Mine?’. It’s weird as this has been out for a good year or so, yet is in its original format, with no updates. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great track, but as the second on a supposedly ‘brand new’ album…it just feels a bit lazy, especially when a passionate fan will want to hear truly brand new material, not this 2012 song.

Next though, finally some brand new songs! ‘One For The Road’, is another that features heavy falsetto backing vocals. Even at just three songs in, it does feel as though this active choice to include them, is ruining each song’s originality. With their inclusion, it is pretty difficult to distinguish between each song…poor considering the Arctic’s back catalogue is all fairly differing in style. As for the actual song itself, it sounds fairly raw and a little bit psychedelic, belonging in the 60’s/70’s, echoing back to the last album, ‘Suck it and See’. It’s pretty sluggish to begin with, and as I said, the falsetto’s can drag after a bit, but it’s the guitar riff that cuts in halfway through that saves it from being truly bad, elevating it to a step above.

Arabella’, is a bit of a mess. Lacking any sort of coherency, with riffs and crashing symbols getting in the way of each other, it sounds like it was written on the spot, a rushed track for sure. Turner’s voice even sounds a bit strained, with the bridged lyrics, ‘My days end best when the sunset gets itself behind/That little lady sitting on the passenger side’,not suiting him one bit. Sounds a bit of a half-arsed attempt at being ‘heavy’, something Turner should probably leave to his Queens of the Stone Age mate, Josh Homme.

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Carrying on similar vibes is ‘I Want It All’, a song that flows more naturally than its predecessor even with the strange floaty vocals. The driving drums and guitar riffs, this time working together in harmony are what propels the track forward, the vocals taking a distinct back seat. It’s a short slice of guitar-laden rock though which goes down well.

With a title reminiscent of the legends of crap-pop, L.M.F.A.O, that is the closest link ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’, has to the ridiculously named Redfoo and SkyBlu. No, the name is a bit ironic, as the song is the slowest on the record yet, with nice echoes of David Bowie during his Ziggy phase. Infact it is very 60’s, with pianos, a fantastic acoustic guitar and a tambourine! It confirms any suspicions you may have that lead singer Alex Turner is actually from the 1960’s. Whilst the chorus’ lyrics may be out of touch with the rest of the song, lyrically it is my favourite thus far. I was actually prepared to say that the first half of the album has been a disappointment, but this song, coming directly at the halfway point shakes things up, and you literally don’t know what to expect next!

What we do get is a continuation of the vibes of ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’. ‘Mad Sounds’, is a chilled out track, which also brings back the favoured tambourine! I can even hear a few organs and a choir of some sorts in there too, you really do have to remind yourself at times that this is an Arctic Monkeys record. The pace is picked up a touch with ‘Fireside’, a never-ending drum beat proving the solid base the rest of the song launches from, and with only some distorted backing vocals, this is a song lacking falsettos, again, Hallelujah! A squealing guitar riff inevitably follows the acoustics of the beginning, but its all very timely and reeks of 70’s influences as the synths also take hold during the latter half of the song.

Then another single, this time, ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, a song I disliked at first, but it’s a grower of some sorts, weird music video permitting. It’s certainly not my favourite track on the album though, for it is a bit of a rambler again, with familiar drum beats, and Turner’s voice returning to its, at times, boring old tones. This could’ve been on any of the last couple of records if I’m completely honest, only attempting to meld some of the melancholic sounds of the second half of, ‘AM’, later on. And the chorus is lyrically bad. Just saying.

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Well falsettos make another return in ‘Snap Out of It’, pretty much condemning it to the middle of the road track it is. Again, there are some nice ideas in here, the funky percussion, the differing drum patterns, but the culmination of it all, doesn’t amount to anything too enjoyable. It’s a bit of a Beady Eye-eque mess, an attempt at some Beatles rock. I didn’t like it! ‘Knee Socks’ doesn’t start brilliantly, yet more high-pitched backing vocals, but then Turner takes charge and it becomes bearable. And the vocals eventually come into their own in the chorus, with a nice bassline supporting, it hits ‘the sweet spot’.

Closer, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, sees a more relaxed vibe kick off the track, until a backing gospel choir join the party. That being said, it eventually peters out, nothing really coming about of the track, a shame given that I would’ve expected a riotous ending to this mixed bag of an album. Still it attempts to combine ideas, like the choir, the drums, the basslines, but sadly, to not much positive effect.

The 2013 Glastonbury Festival

An album of two distinct halves, the first sounding like the left overs of ‘Suck it and See’, and the latter half feeling more like a solid successor, with new sounds experimented mixed with the old. You wonder just how much of this influence was Alex Turner’s, and whether or not he will be tempted to break away and do some solo material, something he experimented with on the soundtrack to 2010 Brit film, ‘Submarine’, as acclaimed a set of songs as there’ll ever be.

On the whole, the album seems like it missed the mark. There are a bunch of wild ideas here, but with no end goal, it’s difficult to truly ‘love’the album. That is, of course, unless you love the released singles, in which case, the album should be to your tastes. I didn’t hate the album, just was disappointed, yet it is something I will give a good few listens too, the first listen is rarely ever the best. This all being said, I’d still love to see them some day, and wouldn’t be adverse to them headlining somewhere like Reading & Leeds next year! The Arctic’s still have a lot going for them, but are yet to reach their ‘seminal’ album, the one that takes them to the higher echelons of guitar music, something that will have the Sheffield band rated amongst the true greats forever.

Check out the iTunes stream now for yourself and comment below on your opinion of the Arctic’s new album! Could they headline Reading & Leeds, T in the Park or even the Isle of Wight festivals 2014 on the back of it?

5.5/10

Leeds Festival 2013: Sunday Review


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Come Sunday, the thousands of campers were weary and out on their feet, but ready for a fantastic days’s entertainment. The site was still a swampy mudbath, but with forecasts of clear skies and sun, it was looking promising for the final day of the festival.

As soon as I arrived I ran for the Dance Stage, desperate to catch some of Ghostpoet. Sadly I only caught the back end of his last song, but it was catchy and brought the hungover audience to life. A must see on his next tour!

Similarly, I only caught a snippet of New York’s Skaters, an indie-rock outfit that I can see growing into a fixture at Reading & Leeds. Their crowd may have been sparse and unknowledgable, but that didn’t stop them having fun with the Americans for a good half an hour or so.

Similarly to Saturday, I spent a good couple of hours in the same place on Sunday, this time the Festival Republic Tent, a place full of new talent waiting to be discovered. I saw Drenge and Swim Deep, back to back. Both were good in moderation, with outstanding songs, like ‘Honey’, ‘The Sea’ and ‘She Changes the Weather’, from the latter Brummies. Crowds were pretty decent too, with plenty of shoulder-riding and singing going on for the latter. Drenge were slightly more subdued, as the duo rattled through some awesome sounding music, but I’m not entirely sure whether they fit the tone of the stage.

Then it was time to check up on another NME darling, Palma Violets, a group who I was undecided on, their first album deceiving me at times. However, their blistering live set had people jumping around and going crazy. They are energetic, cocky and funny, all great features for a band to have. ‘Best of Friends’, was the highlight, a song that evokes the spirit of the Libertines when they were in their prime. With a couple of albums under their belt, I can see the southerners living up to the aforementioned hype, they look like they believe it too!

Palma Violets @ Leeds Festival 2013

With that brief foray to the NME tent, it was off to the Main Stage for the remainder of my 2013 festival. White Lies were 4th from the top of the bill, but didn’t really live up to expectations. For a start, I wasn’t the biggest fan, I think a lot of their material sounds very ‘samey’, which was true of the performance, a performance hampered by sound problems and a pretty uninterested crowd, most of whom were hanging around for Chase & Status and Eminem later on that evening. Their early hits, ‘Fairwell to the Fairground’, and ‘Death’, were nice, but the longer it went on, the longer it felt they were ‘going through the motions’.

Up next were Foals, again a band I was wary of. I like a lot of their songs, but had never been impressed by their live performances I’d caught on TV. However, they were great fun, energetic and had some good banter with the crowd, lead singer Yannis ending up in the crowd by the end of their set. Before that though, songs like ‘Spanish Sahara’ and ‘My Number’, showed the variation in their song-craft, going from the deep, building tunes to a catchy pop number. The boss of the festival Melvin Benn has since claimed they could headline the festival, which I think was a slight over-exaggeration, although he said the same about the next act, something which may be true…

Chase & Status, an incredible act and a perfect appetizer for what was to come. Their set up saw the duo positioned behind a ‘C’ and ‘S’ DJ booth each, with MC Rage effectively the ringmaster of proceedings, dragging out the likes of Liam Bailey as guest vocalists, with Plan B and Delilah projected onto a humongous video screen above their heads. It was impressive to see such a stage show, especially given the problems Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails had.

Chase & Status

When tracks like ‘No Problem’‘Let You Go’ and ‘Hypest Hype’, dropped, the crowd went nuts for it, descending into mosh pits and general dancing. It was amazing to see, and one of the loudest, best atmospheres of the festival I had witnesses (more of which later). It was strange, given all I’d heard and read online prior to the festival was that their booking was a poor one, not in-keeping with the tradition of the festival. Sure, that may be correct, but why not move with the times, book popular acts who DO have crossover with the rock, alternative and indie music scene (you’d have been surprised just how many ‘metalheads’ were enjoying themselves to C&S). I don’t see it as an issue, especially as it helps to keep the festival going, something which the next act definitely helped with.

The rap legend that is Eminem graced the stage for his second headline set, amongst a bunch of questions and fears. I got talking to people around me beforehand and whilst everyone was excited, noone knew what to expect! Old material, new material- a mixture of both? Would he mime? Well whilst that wasn’t really clarified (although personally I think he relied on backing track the odd time, but was at his best and actually rapping for the majority of the set), one thing was clear; Eminem was back.

Whilst a lot of the first half of the set was his newer material, from ‘Recovery’ and ‘Relapse’, it was bearable in a live environment. This was partly due to the live band AND DJ he had accompanying him, aswell as the buzzing crowd, still excited from C&S who were devouring his hit-packed set.

My favourite moment of the festival came with the 3 minute medley of older songs, that was, ‘My Name Is/The Real Slim Shady/Without Me’. For 3 minutes I was a child again, and it was amazing! As was the special guest for ‘Stan’, Dido herself. Both of those moments were special and brought much acclaim from the audience. Then a one-song encore came about a great rendition of the intense, ‘Lose Yourself’, before Em headed off for good. It may have been a fairly brisk, 25 song, 100 minute set, but god was it good. And that was Leeds Fest 2013, done just like that!

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So, to round it all off, Leeds 2013 was fantastic, perhaps as an overall experience outing 2012’s edition, Foo Fighters and all! We saw the newly anointed Biffy Clyro become the rock gods they were destined to be, a return for the veterans of pop-punk, Green Day and Eminem finish it all off with a blistering display of a hip-hop gig. Other personal highlights were the likes of HAIM and Peace on the NME stage, Chase & Status killing the Main Stage, Major Lazer bringing the party to the tent, aswell as echoes of the Libertines, with Palma Violets giving a confident, humourous performance.

It may have been muddy, it may have been soaking wet; but Leeds Festival 2013 was bloody good!