Category Archives: You May Have Missed…

A wild and stupid ride: To Live And Die In LA

To Live And Die In LA wears its stupidity proudly. It flaunts it’s love of cliches while it turns them on their head.

–SPOILERS — if you ain’t seen it, watch it and come back, sport.

William Freidkin invented most of the damn cliches in the first place with The French Connection. Cops who don’t play by the rules! Car chases in dirty city back streets! Gun fights! Here he basks in his own glory, turning up every dial, taking it up an 80s coke notch or two.

But Friedkin is a man who wants to have his coke and snort it. He wants the car chases, the cop who gets killed just before his retirement, the revenge story. He wants you to settle in for a night with the old tropes.

But then he keeps pulling the rug out from under you. The good guy is blackmailing a woman into having sex with him. The good guy gets an FBI agent killed. The good guy gets himself shot in the face. Imagine if Lethal Weapon killed off Martin Riggs before the final reel. This is what we’re talking about here. The viewer spits out his pizza in shock.

Life flows in aftermath… the good guy’s squeaky clean partner winds up dressing like his idol, eager for some blackmail sex of his own. The story can start again. Lethal Weapon can set itself up, but over there the good guy will never get shot in the face with a shot gun.

To Live And Die In LA: a wild and stupid ride where not everyone gets out alive.


Bones of the art form: Michael Mann’s Miami Vice

Miami Vice is an action movie with no interest in action. It’s a thriller with no interest in character or plot.  Miami Vice is a distillation of everything that made Michael Mann an auteur. A movie that takes the elements and boils them down to the point where nothing exists any more, then looks through the bones to see what is left over.

Miami Vice understands it’s plot. It doesn’t care if you understand it or not. Cops spout acronyms. Cops speak jargon. They understand each other, they’re cops. We are not cops, so we do not understand. Therefore there is no exposition. They’re cops, we’re observers.

In Heat they stripped Vincent Hanna of his coke habit, here the ‘heroes’ are stripped of any vestige of personality. They’re truly soulless individuals, as empty as the world they populate. Here, cops are cops and they have no other life.

& this world is M.Mann personified. Pastel colours and icy music while vehicles glide past. The heroes look longingly into the oceanic middle distance. Speed boats and planes soar. Cars zip by.

The action scenes are jumbled collages, make of them what you will.

Miami Vice takes the meaningless and turns it into an art form. Here Michael Mann reached the point where making his art is his only interest, regardless of if anyone digs it.

Michael Mann’s art got higher. Or lower.

Louise Pop – Time Is A Habit (2012)

Ah, the hot, sticky rush of pop music made with guitars. It’s right up there with the first flushes of new love and scoring the winner in an FA Cup semi-final.

Austrian band Louise Pop released Time Is A Habit back in 2012, a perfectly presented package of pop…

louise pop

Strains of all manner of spiky, sugar-rush guitar music can be found here: indie, new-wave, punk, surf and beyond. Blondie, The Libertines and The Wombats are just some of the bands that spring to mind.

Title track ‘Time Is A Habit’ is a wonky, whimsical treat that could be Wire covering The Kinks. Possibly.

Click to watch the video

‘Conceptual Dance’ sounds like Elastica and cheekily references Right Said Fred. No, really. The vocals sound so much like Justine Frischmann you’ll be scampering to check the band line up in the liner notes.

‘Broken Bits’ and ‘Slow Motion’ are angular, arty evocations of post punk. ‘Deep In The Jungle’ has a Slits-esque down-in-the-playground atmosphere. ‘Blue Lights’ is an indie anthem made for the nerdier end of the late night dancing scene.

The best thing about this band may be the lyrics, eschewing a lorry load of witty bon mots as…

“Never trust a country boy”

“Run down by a speedboat”

“I don’t give a fuck about the colour of your eyes”

A beautiful notion of friends making music about love and life with wit and energy…

El Gran Chufle – Waitecas (2012)

El Gran Chufle have two personalities. Their 2012 album, Waitecas, is a realm where one needs to dig…

el gran chufle

The surface is a vicious rock ‘n’ roll surf sound. A dark time of surf however where danger lurks round every corner. This is music that would accompany Tarantino hitting up the ’50s… cherry red Mercury Coupe’s chewing asphalt while coiled snakes squirm on sun-baked rocks.

These are songs are spicy and delicious, practically dripping in BBQ sauce. This is a place where skeletons twist and boogie in a sightless death dance.

Listen to the evil guitar on ‘The Strangers’ and the blood will quicken in your veins. ‘Terremoto’ is a strutting gang of mariachi outlaws. ‘Acid Laguna’ stabs while dances.

click to listen to ‘Terremoto’

Yet this isn’t just a work of Cramps-ish rockabilly. As the album cover suggests, there are whole layers of tectonic plates shifting under the surface. There is stately post punk bass, shoegaze somnambulism, organs that veer from meditative to funky…

‘Waitecas Dream’ has Slowdive undertones powered by a cruising rhythm section that glides like  Magazine. ‘Fire and Wine’ is a magical song, where, in an isolated field far from civilisation, a mysterious group of people in having a pagan sing-song, to Gods undefined. Highly evocative of Quilt’s ‘Cowboys In The Void’, so if you love that, you’ll love this. ‘Le Rebel is a slice of Lumerians-esque space funk…

click to listen to ‘Le Rebel’ 

The sheer unpredictability of Waitecas is just one of its strengths. El Gran Chufle use their core repertoire of sounds but take us to a variety of exotic locations. They take us down with them through the layers of their imagining…

Monroeville Music Centre – Choose Your Own Adventure (2013)

The success of Monroeville Music Centre isn’t so much their flawless recreation of 1970s and 1980s electronica but in the vibrant manner of the music. So much retro music of this type is sterile and dour, but their album, Choose Your Own Adventure breathes with life, energy and humour. More than just exhuming the music of yesteryear Monroeville are reconnecting us, the audience, with our long-dimmed feelings of optimism for the future. There’s such a child-like sense of wonder permeating the album that the excitement is contagious.

Humour is a key ingredient. The majority of electronic music on bandcamp is good but reeks of teenage boys in their bedroom taking it all a bit too seriously. MMC are clearly having fun, and that feeling is transmitted to the listener. Moreover, there is a slickness and professionalism at work which sets them apart from many electronic acts.

I’m not entirely certain what Monroeville Music Centre are and if they are serious or not. Check out their website (here) to see what I mean. Mystery in the 21st century is a rare commodity. I could find out more about the band but really I’d rather not.

So let’s look at some of the highlights from Choose Your Own Adventure, released in 2013.

cover - monroe

Kraftwerk’s Metropolis looms large in it’s clinical future-awe sheen. Here and there you can discern the the squelchy, queasy soundtrack by Goblin to Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. The latter seems a safe bet to cite as an influence. considering Monroeville was the name of the mall, setting of the cult zombie satire.

Many of the songs are shining, energetic electro-pop cut from the same cloth as The Human League. You can imagine these songs being mimed in an over lit studio for Top Of The Pops in the early 80s, brimming with bad haircuts. To hear ‘The Cave Of Time’ click here.

‘The Perfect Planet’ could almost be an electro-pop version of ‘She Sells Sanctuary’. ‘Invaders From Within’ is slower with an almost warped and decaying sound emanating from the synths. ‘Motorcross Mania’ is practically too blaring for containment, breaking up into white light.

‘You Are A Monster’ has a relentless ardour, not a million miles from a chiptunes cover of ‘The Bad Touch’.

Short and magical.

Helicon – Take The Ride EP (2011)

Helicon: a ragged gang of guitar wielding scallywags who weave light from darkness and bring chaos to order. Discipline never sounded so undisciplined. Groove never felt so random.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of bands operating within this BJM / space-rock framework but Helicon are a band apart. The sheer size of their sound is overwhelming; noises produced then moulded; caressed then weaponised. Talking about individual elements of their songs and sound can be tricky as the sum is greater than the parts, when it all comes down, sense and reason are surrendered.

Helicon are a band with a large supply of EPs under their belts. Let’s head back to 2011 to take a look at one of the best: Take The Ride. cover take the ride ‘The Point Between Heaven And Hell’ is a ketamine tornado of whirling calamity, a long, bejewelled marathon of jangling guitars and hazy harmony. Starting with a dying helicopter, fading rotors glinting in the sun. Past 2 minutes the song shifts into angry life; methodical, stomping drums beat a bloodthirsty holler. Past 4 minutes a Jesus & Mary Chain meets Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’ vibe comes down, along with shoegaze vocals. Female backing vocals add a dreamy gloss. Spun with style and precise pacing this is an exquisite way to start the record.

Watch a rehearsal ‘The Point Between Heaven And Hell’

‘Truth Or Consequences’ takes us deeper, with a heavy BJM groove. Over 7 minutes the waves of guitar build up enough pressure to make ears pop.

‘Hiding In The Shadows’ fuses what appears to be sitar and didgeridoo before kicking in with frisky drums and bold vocals. More fleet footed than the previous tracks but without trading in hypnotic patterns of mind control.

Superb stuff, and there’s plenty more where that came from…

The 66 – Storm EP (2010)

Imagine a band which combines many of your favourite bands from the North West: the La’s, The Verve, Oasis, Stone Roses… What you would want though, is a band that pays homage but with the originality and passion to offer something new and vital. Rock ‘n’ roll music that transcends the physical into something both emotional and spiritual. The 66 were such a band.

Those mysterious skyjets, The 66, glinting in the sun, detectable from their vaporous chemtrails from their flight into the unknown. Existing 2007-2011 and releasing a handful of material, let’s take a lens to the EP Storm

cover the 66 storm

Hear Storm on Bandcamp (and note the reasonable price…)

‘The Storm’ kicks up sand and pours forth from your speakers. Whirlwinds of guitar buzz, savage lines of stinging attacks. A stomping stop-start of sleaze. At just 2 minutes 22 seconds it’s short but whets your appetite for more.

‘Red God Man’ throws up the sound of rock music performed with style, guts and passion. Daubs of bluesy guitar build the chorus to a high of euphoria, Danny Rimmer singing “Red dog, dead dog, blow your fucking head off”. What works here is knowing when using a swear word in your chorus feels like a cheap trick and when it matches the emotion attained by what has gone before. It works here as the listener is left anticipating the lyrics as they emerge. The first time you hear this song you will be singing along, that, friends, is the key to a successful song.

‘Hidden Glove’ rips through you, ninja level riffage and juggernaut rhythm section. Pure rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Want a song to drink tequila and dance to? You found it. And here’s a smoking acoustic version.

The keening lament of ‘Break of Dawn’ offers psych strings painting plucked petals with blood. Strummed mariachi guitar constructs the kind of Oasis B side Noel was always striving for. Dissolving into wispy nothingness leaving an air of mystery, much like The 66 themselves.

‘Money Men’ dances from your speakers, shuffling and uplifting like a long-lost La’s track and eliciting the same sort of happiness such a discovery would create. Another snake hipped chorus, more whiplash guitar, more freewheeling abandon… An immaculate release from a band that deserve wider recognition; ahead, behind and beyond their time.  cover the 66

(The song ‘Bordello’ isn’t on the EP but here’s a live version anyway…)