2013 in Review

I occasionally run a little “Inspirations” section under a blogpost to share what stuff I’m interested in or enjoying, because sooner or later what goes in will show up in what comes out. Plus, any chance to send people towards good stuff is one that should be taken up. This is a massive version of that sort of thing. I go on a bit, because it’s my blog and I’m allowed to.

I include old stuff that I’ve discovered this year, since this is the Internet age and it doesn’t really matter when something is released. I don’t really watch TV, so that’s out. As for theatre, I’ve seen quite a few shows this year (more than one, which is a lot for me), mainly at the RSC. None of them have moved me enough to produce an actual list, but the RSC productions of A Mad World, My Masters, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Wendy & Peter Pan were particularly good.

Obviously, this isn’t a decree, it’s a conversation. Tell me I’m wrong, what I’ve missed, what I’d like, what I have to look forward to.


Blogging will be a thing again, and some reviews

Blogging has again become sporadic and erratic. Fear not Putting on a Show will return, as will #fridayflash, but travelling and other factors have caused some skip weeks.

You’re probably owed an explanation of what else I’ve been up to creatively apart from Nando’s, but sadly the answer to that is not much. Rehearsing a musical somewhere you don’t live, setting up a multiplatform writing partnership, attempting to escape graduate unemployment, and readjusting to the family home and its pets and schedules, plus god knows what else, has very much taken up the available brain space that I would prefer to use for creativity. As such, not much is getting done, I’m afraid.


Input, output, poem

Hello again. My brief life update is that my collaboration Nando’s and Nandon’ts recieved its second draft performance at the Y Theatre, Leicester, which was enormously helpful, and I look forward to working it up into a full piece with Will Breden. Also, DSMing Curve Young Company’s The Tempest turns full-on on Monday, as tech/show week starts! Strange to think exactly a year after the Shakespeare Marathon (if I didn’t write about it this time last year prod me for details), I’m doing another many-hours Bard project.

For this entry I thought I’d go a little more into what I’ve been putting into my brain, since it will out itself eventually in my writing. Also, I have many thoughts about some things. I’m going to look at a book, a comic, and a film. Then there’s a poem I happened to write for those who scroll to the end. UPDATE: I’ve also renovated the poetry and prose sections.


Review in The Ripple

A quick update – the work for The Ripple I mentioned a while back has basically culminated in this one album review. It’s only a hundred words in print, but longer here. I’m currently mulling over whether the investment was worth the result. At this moment, I’m not feeling it.

Spector – Enjoy It While It Lasts

James Ward

By titling their album Enjoy it While It Lasts, Spector seem to be following The Vaccines by deliberately underselling their debut. It certainly starts softly, with ‘True Love (For Now)’ featuring a building synth intro. The drums kick in for the second verse, and soon enough we’re into a big chorus, with crashing drums, guitars and mastered to make your ears bleed. They’re pretty good at them, which is fortunate because it’s the record’s main characteristic. Indeed, the strongest tracks such as ‘Chevy Thunder’ and ‘Celestine’ rip along bearing some cracking melodies to shout-along to. Spector also do a line in synthesiser-led atmospheric ballads, such as ‘Grey Suit & Tie’ and ‘Lay Low’, which are perfectly fine but nowhere near as thrilling. The best example is ‘Never Fade Away’, which makes up for not being the Buddy Holly song by building gradually and satisfyingly to a suitably grandiose finale. It also benefits from being one of the few songs where there is actually space in the mix, giving you a chance to listen to its elements rather than be blasted at by them.

The album title also points to a melancholic vein in the record. Songs such as ‘Twenty Nothing’ may sound chirpy enough, but the lyrics tend to look wistfully back at teenage abandon rather than live in the heat of it. The break-ups outnumber the hook-ups, and the declaration of ‘Friday Night, Don’t Ever Let It End’ is delivered dripping with irony. Indeed, Fred Macpherson’s singing is pretty much Spector’s only USP – none of the instrumentation stands out as particularly inspired, much of it being a basic backing white noise. Macpherson has a deeper, more ringing sound than many other indie rock vocalists, which gives the band a grander tone. However, he performs with a strange mix of sincerity and ironic detachment, which isn’t an issue on the faster tracks but muddies the enjoyment of songs such as ‘No Adventure’. Ultimately, what this suggests is while Spector may have some witty turns of phrase, there’s no depth to the music. Although, I suppose suggesting this album is mainly concerned with surface sound is obvious from the first play.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with an album being all looks, but it does jeopardise an album’s staying power. There’s certainly nothing here to suggest any future for the band, and the record may well be swept under the carpet and forgotten by next year. However, the big songs are great fun to blast, nothing save ‘Grim Reefer’ drags and it’s perfectly pleasant to mix in amongst whatever else you may be listening to at pre-drinking. So, with Enjoy It While It Lasts, we have an album where the title accurately describes the experience. The Trading Standards Agency will be so pleased.

The Ripple

Lower Than Atlantis – Changing Tune

John Anderson

2012 has been set up to be Lower Than Atlantis’ year in the realm of small-to-medium sized UK rock bands. Their first ever headline tour sold out entirely via pre-sale. Radio One guru Zane Lowe had been a fervent advocate of the Watford quartet for a good twelve months. They signed a deal with Island Records making them labelmates with such eclectic and superstar artists as Tori Amos, Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber and Psy (yes, Gangnam Style). Promises are tricky fiends, however, despite all the hype their forthcoming album exuded.

LTA’s first two full-lengths are modern British rock gems. Far Q took the hardcore stylings of early work and melded it with a heavy Foo Fighters alternative influence – the British tend to do things with more grit than Americans. Rough around the edges, this latter style emerged fully-fledged from chrysalis on…

View original post 3,116 more words


The Wicked Years

Map of Oz, from Wicked

I didn’t necessarily intend to do book reviews on this blog, but I was midway through writing this on my Tumblr and realised it perhaps has a better home here. I’ve just finished Out of Oz, you see, the fourth and final volume in The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire. It completed the sequence well, I think, and I just wanted to make a quick summary of my thoughts while they were fresh.