Month: April 2016

Book review: Brighton Rock

Brighton RockBrighton Rock by Graham Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d known about Brighton Rock for ages – a combination of general awareness of Graham Greene and the Morrissey song ‘Now My Heart Is Full’ but I’d never read it. Now that I have, I can see why someone like the Smiths frontman would namecheck it: it’s a sordid, grimy window on the thirties, a look at the world of tough men and the children who wish to become them. Rough trade under the garish lights of a seaside town, immortalised in fiction and iconic film.

This is the second Greene I’d read (The Third Man being the much shorter first) and it pulled me in from the outset. I’m intrigued about the rest of his work, now. The story’s pretty simple: a murder is committed by Pinkie, a sociopathic pup with distinct lady problems. Ida, a voluminous seeker of good times, takes umbrage at the foul play she suspects has befallen a brief acquaintence, and decides to root out the truth. What follows is a sea mist-shrouded examination of the mental life of both the pursuer and the pursued, framed by the prospect of turf takeover from larger interests. (more…)

Loving the alien (per album)

A little while ago my friend Andy made a fairly lengthy Facebook thread detailing his favourite David Bowie songs from each of Bowie’s albums. It sparked a bit of conversation, and I figured I’d like to do the same, as it would give me – if nothing else – an excuse to play all the albums again. (You know, as if I needed one.)

What I learned from this endeavour is: 1) post-anaesthesia listening is weird (I did most of the thinking in the days after a brief hospital trip) and 2) that fucker makes it difficult to choose one song on an album. Let alone articulate why you like the bloody thing in the first place

Let’s go. (more…)

Book review: The Magic Cottage

Magic Cottage: NTWThe Magic Cottage by James Herbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I recently spent some time in hospital, and thought this work might make a good companion. From the blurb, it suggested a zippy, not thoroughly taxing read. Fair enough, I thought: I’ll zip through it while waiting for day surgery and that will be that. Popcorn consumed.

So somehow, it’s ten days later and I’ve only just finished it. And why? Because I kept feeling like I had to flog myself onwards toward a finish line that wasn’t really worth it when I got over it.

Ugh. (more…)

New The Revenant (soundtrack) review

My review of the Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner soundtrack for The Revenant has been posted over at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample.

For the most part, there’s a kind of ascetic, restrained feeling, a mirror to the film’s harsh, cold setting. There’s hints of single-fiddle folk-tunes, dragged out to contemplative, almost-stopped lengths, but there’s more fulsome moments, too. The ‘Killing Hawk’ cue mines the emotive vein popularised by Arvo Part – indeed, some of the string prods are reminiscent of that composer’s Te Deum, isolated moments of touched-nerve consideration, heard through reverberation.

You can read the rest here, if you’d like.

Borderlands and breaking ice

This post may contain spoilers for Tales From The Borderlands and Cryostasis. If you’re planning on playing either of those you might want to read this later, perhaps. 

I’ve recently finished playing Borderlands 2, a 100-odd hour epic jaunt which I mostly enjoyed. While I had reached my fill of that game’s mechanics, I was not quite ready to leave the world that had been created, so I decided to whip through Telltale’s episodic Tales From The Borderlands adventure game to get my fill of Handsome Jack action. (Jacktion? Ew.)


Book review: List of the Lost

List of the LostList of the Lost by Morrissey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Oh, Manchester. So much to answer for.

Look, I’m not going to lie. I’m a Morrissey fan. A big Morrissey fan. I wasn’t for a long time, but then something suddenly made sense, and I was all in on the guy. Smiths, solo, everything. I thought his Autobiography was compelling, and in places a lot more sweetly honest than any observer of the artist’s turn of phrase could have expected.

And now, this. It’s a novella, once again on Penguin, ostensibly about a team of runners in 1970s Boston. Who accidentally kill a vagrant-appearing demon and then are cursed.

Wait, what? (more…)

Book review: Girl in a Band: A Memoir

Girl in a Band: A MemoirGirl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title of Kim Gordon’s autobiography is a neat reduction of how she’s been interpreted by media outlets and observers for years: the girl in the most apparently sausagefesty of bands, the fringe-and-pedals, truculent beast that was Sonic Youth. It is, naturally, reductive, a fiction pushed by those who’d copy to file, or those whose musical penates was the Kim and Thurston power couple.

The quote on the back of the book – pulled from its instant-in first chapter – best describes the artist’s feelings of being observed, categorised.

Onstage, people have told me, I’m opaque or mysterious or enigmatic or even cold. But more than any of those things, I’m extremely shy and sensitive, as if I can feel all the emotions swirling around a room. And believe me when I say that once you push past my persona, there aren’t any defenses there at all.

Of course, I’m guilty of this reduction. I like to defend this with the acknowledgement that Sonic Youth are a band I seem to ‘get’ more now that I’m older: I had some albums when I was growing up, but I always seemed to miss something, that there was a big secret that I couldn’t understand, an enjoyment others had that I couldn’t grasp. I couldn’t get a read on Gordon: she seemed like she took no shit, from my limited pre-internet knowledge, and that probably frightened me, as teenage-terrible as I was parsing women. (more…)

Book review: Lost Japan: Last Glimpse of Beautiful Japan

Lost Japan: Last Glimpse of Beautiful JapanLost Japan: Last Glimpse of Beautiful Japan by Alex Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Originally published in 1993, this revised edition of Lost Japan is Alex Kerr’s examination of aspects of Japan that are slowly disappearing. It’s an exploration – admittedly by an outsider, though a long-term resident – of the parts of Japanese culture which, after hundreds of years, are vanishing in the wake of economic miracles and crashes, and with the rise of technology. (Kerr would later write about different forms of downturn in Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan, though that work is concerned with modern declination.)

Kerr‘s an interesting fellow, and the aspects of his biography woven into the book’s structure intrigue: born in Maryland, he grew up in Yokohama, and studied such that he could be thrust back into Japanese life. Organised Japanese studies seemed to disagree with him, so he struck out on his own, on a path which led to a love of art (and time as a dealer), associations with Texan developers, and guardian angel for a house in the Iya Valley – as well as figurehead for a trust designed to fight the effects of depopulation in rural areas. (more…)