The BAMS 2015

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BAMS 2015

It’s been that time of the year again when I put my feet up, grab a bunch of CDs, stick on my headphones, treat myself to a glass or two of Bamgria and work out my top ten albums of the last twelve months for the BAMS (Scottish Bloggers and Music Sites), an award run by Mike (Manic Pop Thrills), Neil (Scottish Fiction), Jamie (Netsounds Unsigned), Al (Houdidont), Stuart (Is This Music?) and Lloyd (Honorary Head BAM).

In the end and after much thought (and tonic wine) Kathryn Joseph’s bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled headed my list, just edging out John Foxx’s completely under-rated ambient masterpiece London Overgrown, which in turn just edged out Infinite Variety by The Cathode Ray.

Here is my full top ten. In reverse order of course.

10. The Fall: Sub-Lingual Tablet
9. Wire: Wire
8. Dot Dash: Earthquakes & Tidal Waves
7. C Duncan: Architect
6. Lonelady: Hinterland
5. Blur: The Magic Whip
4. _Linden: Rest and be Thankful
3. The Cathode Ray: Infinite Variety
2. John Foxx: London Overgrown
1. Kathryn Joseph: bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled


Seeing Kathryn Joseph accept the SAY (Scottish Artist of the Year) Award at the O2 ABC in Glasgow back in June (as I predicted she would) was a highlight of 2015. But could she make it a double victory and bag the famous BAMS prize of a bottle of Buckfast?

Again, here is the BAMS top ten in reverse order.

10. Public Service Broadcasting: The Race For Space
9. Wolf Alice: My Love Is Cool
8. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
7. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly
6. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell
5. Chrvches: Open Every Eye
4. Young Fathers: White Men Are Black Men
3. C Duncan: Architect
2. Miaoux Miaoux: School Of Velocity
1. Kathryn Joseph: bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled

Kathryn Joseph BAMS 2015

Well done to Kathryn and pleasing to see that Infinite Variety put up a decent showing, finishing joint twentieth on the list. From the album here is This Force of Nature:

 

For more on Kathryn Joseph, click here.

For more on The Cathode Ray, here’s yer link.

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Goodbye, David Bowie

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A message appeared yesterday on the Facebook page of David Bowie stating: ‘David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.’

I’ve only just discovered this sad news and am pretty much lost for words.

Early in 2013, in an e-fanzine called Total Blam Blam, I reviewed his The Next Day album very favourably and compared him with Picasso, writing: ‘I wouldn’t hesitate to compare Bowie with the most important artists of the twentieth century.’

Don’t expect me to change my mind of that one any time soon. David Bowie was a massive creative force. An icon. Unique.

From the same issue of the e-fanzine, here are my brief thoughts on some of the man’s finest moments:

Top Ten: Bowie Albums

10. Young Americans (1975). Plastic Soul according to Bowie, but even
James Brown, the Godfather of (non plastic) Soul, loved Fame so much that he absolutely ripped off the Carlos Alomar riff for his single Hot.

9. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980). Bowie albums are still
regularly named as the ‘best since Scary Monsters’.

8. Heathen (2002). Eh, the best Bowie since Scary Monsters.

7. Diamond Dogs (1974). His farewell to Glam and also the best ever
Bowie album cover sleeve painted by Guy Peellaert.

6. Heroes (1977). Voted Best of the Year by both NME and Melody Maker in 1977 and memorably, as Punk peaked creatively in the UK, marketed under the slogan ‘There’s Old Wave, there’s New Wave and there’s David Bowie’.

5. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
(1972). While we’re on the theme of Ziggy, look out for the new book by Simon Goddard, Ziggyology, A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust.

4. Aladdin Sane (1973). With the near constant touring and production duties with Mott the Hoople, Lou Reed and Iggy around this time it’s almost miraculous that Bowie managed to find the time for this, his first #1 album in Britain. Not as disciplined as Ziggy but, hey, Ziggy didn’t have Mike Garson, so this just edges it, especially because of the exquisite Lady Grinning Soul.

3. Low (1977). David at his most experimental. I seem to remember
John Peel previewing the whole of side one on his late night radio show and it sounded to me as if he was fading tracks, something he was normally loathe to do. Wrong. He wasn’t. And I also thought side two must be much more commercial. Wrong again.

2. Hunky Dory (1971). Kooks. Changes. Oh! You Pretty Things. Life on
Mars? The Bewley Brothers. Wow! Still can’t really be arsed about Song
for Bob Dylan though, which probably denied it the top spot.

1. Station to Station (1976). This was Cocaine Psychosis Bowie or the Thin White Duke if you prefer, a paranoid wreck, obsessed with the occult and flirting with fascism. Bowie remembers little about making this LP but Lester Bangs, who’d had previously dismissed his act as ‘Johnny Ray on cocaine singing about 1984’, got it right when he called this a masterpiece. Albeit, in the circumstances, possibly an unlikely one.

*

And, not featured on any of those ten, here’s Boys Keep Swinging from 1979, which certainly brings back some amazing memories for me.


David Robert Jones/David Bowie: 8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016

For more on David Bowie, click here.

The Hateful Eight

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Back in 2007, Quentin Tarantino announced that would he would attend a screening of his new film Death Proof at the Glasgow Film Theatre and on hearing this news I immediately booked a ticket and later enjoyed both the movie and seeing the director motormouth his way through a Q&A afterwards, even if he did have the occasional problem with Scottish accents.

So yes, I am a fan but no fanboy, in fact, I reckon he can veer towards being a bit of an arse at times.

The Hateful Eight poster

For The Hateful Eight, I head to my local Odeon, where there’s no Tarantino in attendance and as this venue certainly isn’t one of those selected for his 70mm Ultra Panavision Roadshow, there’s no programme, no intermission, a slightly shorter runtime and digital projection.

Rather than shooting on film stock deliberately scratched and discoloured to echo the effects of scuzzy 70s grindhouse cinema as he did on Death Proof this time round Tarantino has decided to employ 70mm Ultra Panavision, a vintage widescreen format not used since the young Quentin was barely out of nappies. This decision resembles the likes of The White Stripes choosing to record in the analogue only Toe Rag Studios in Hackney and whether it was worthwhile I obviously cannot say although, on my bog standard screening, Robert Richardson’s cinematography, particularly early on, did still look gorgeous and could have been shot by a master of landscape photography such as Ansel Adams.

So, the film itself. Tarantino’s eighth feature is set in the wilderness of Wyoming during the kind of spectacularly wild blizzard that would even put the worst winters of East Kilbride to shame (a snowbound -1 as I left the cinema last night, folks).

In a six horse strong stagecoach, a bounty hunter by the name of John Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorts black-eyed ‘no good murdering bitch’ Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock, where she is to hang. Ruth is nicknamed the Hangman due to his insistence on always bringing his quarry in alive to face the rope and he is happy to admit when asked if he will watch her death: ‘I wanna hear her neck snap with my own two ears.’

Soon the pair are joined by two stranded travellers, firstly another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former Union soldier, who carries a letter from Abraham Lincoln around with him wherever he goes and then Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who claims to be heading into Red Rock to take up the position of town sheriff – and if Goggins looks familiar then you might remember him as the transgender prostitute in Sons of Anarchy that Tig took a shine to.

That’s half of the hateful eight – there is also the stagecoach driver O.B, who can’t really be classed as hateful although he does get mightily pissed off at one point – and they will double in number on taking refuge in an isolated roadhouse known as Minnie’s Haberdashery, where the plan is to hole up until the weather has calmed down.

The snowstorm, though, is only a minor inconvenience  compared to the shitstorm that is about to follow.

The majority of the movie takes place in Minnie’s, although surprisingly the hostess is nowhere to be seen, instead the log cabin is inhabitated by another bunch of marooned travellers: Senor Bob (Demián Bichir) a near monosyllabic Mexican who claims to have been roped into looking after Minnie’s while she is away visiting relatives; a dandyish and supercilious Englishman named Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) who is an actual hangman; Sandford Smithers (Bruce Dern), a bitter former Confederate general and Joe Gage, who is played by Michael Madsen and therefore obviously a badass.

All The Hateful Eight

All the director’s trademark touches are on display here – visceral violence, verbal jousting and humour, twists, cinematic references, non-linear storytelling and serpentine plotting.

There is also the reappearance of the word nigger, bound to cause controversy among those who believe that fictional characters should not be allowed to speak as a writer envisaged and that no one should ever be offended.

There’s no scene packed with the tension of the shot of adrenaline to Uma Thurman’s heart in Pulp Fiction or the cloaked menace of the interrogation by Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and, of course, this being Tarantino, the movie also verges on the self-indulgent at times although its good points far outweigh any negatives.

The storyline is never predictable and there are a number of stand-out performances from a fantastic ensemble cast. Jackson, as ever, is superb with Tarantino dialogue but maybe best of all is Jennifer Jason Leigh, a performer I hadn’t seen acting in over a decade. She is sensational here as a witch-like villain, who is abused terribly by Ruth and others as she snarls, spits, cackles and curses. Her reaction as Ruth projectile vomits blood over her face is priceless, the funniest thing I’ve seen on the big screen in a long, long time.

Okay, I admit I sometimes have a childish sense of humour.

There is also a fantastically brooding score supplied by Ennio Morricone that has been partly recycled from sections of his highly evocative music for John Carpenter’s The Thing (which also starred Kurt Russell) and also from Exorcist II: The Heretic. One critic has called it Morricone’s masterpiece but they have obviously never seen Once Upon a Time in the West. The Hateful Eight additionally uses other music such as the aforementioned White Stripes with Apple Blossom and Roy Orbison singing There Won’t Be Many Coming Home over the end credits.

It is a testament to the talents of Quentin Tarantino that while I wouldn’t consider this as a contender for the tag of his best film, it’s still a great watch that never for a moment strays into the realms of the dull and is easily one of the finest films released in the course of the last twelve months.


For more on the film visit the official site.