20 June 2021 – Back to the cinema at last

Cinemas finally reopened last week. Since they’ve been open, I’ve been to see two films. The first thing I saw was “A Quiet Place Part II” and then, more as an excuse for a cinema trip than any interest, I went to see “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard”. Getting back into the cinema was fantastic. I love the cinema experience. I think because it’s loud and you’re in the dark it can be a nice break for the brain. There’s no space for thinking about stress or going on your phone. It’s an almost meditative act. The film has your full undivided attention.

The two films I saw were a quick reminder of all the good and bad of the cinema. As with all sequels, the originality of the first film is lost by the time we see “A Quiet Place Part II” We’ve seen the monsters, we expect the moments of sneaking and then accidentally making some noise and then a hectic chase. We know that the girl is deaf. Seeing those things in the first film was something new. It felt like a bad situation that kept getting worse. This time around, we’re used to all that. The truth is it doesn’t up it’s game this time around. It probably could have ended at the end of the first film and been a very solid and complete story. But the best trailer for a film is a successful prequel so they had to make a second one. I also think the film wasn’t as brutal as the first. It has one initial gruesome shock but I think the first one was less worried about offending audiences with shocking choices.

It seems weird to have a film that leans so heavily on a deaf character for drama and tension but then isn’t released as subtitled. It kinda undermines all the positive work that the film and the team behind it are trying to be seen to be doing. There’s probably a lot more to that than I know, but it seems weird.

All that being said, “A Quiet Place Part II” was fun to see on the big screen. Millicent Simmonds is great and probably overtook Emily Blunt to take the leading role. It was great fun to hear jump scares in the cinema again and enjoy the shared experience of watching films together with strangers. It amplifies the tension. I also enjoyed the short cameo appearance of Scoot McNairy, the actor with the best name in Hollywood. It’s definitely worth watching. My complaints aren’t really with the film itself, but more with sequels in general and the person at Paramount Pictures decided not to subtitle a film with a deaf protagonist.

While my complaints with “A Quiet Place Part II” are ideological, my complaints with “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” are much more straight forward. It’s just not good. It’s a real case of a film being propelled forward by it’s cast and it’s capacity to advertise watches and gin. It’s terrible with some funny moments, but those moments are like reminders that people were paid money to make this so they had to do something. This is not going to be anyone’s favourite film and I hope I forget about it soon.

So my first trips back to the cinema were a pretty good reminder of what we’ve missed. Some trash, some good times, but it’s all worth it to get to sit in the dark for a while and eat popcorn.

20 June 2021 – Back to the cinema at last

18 June 2021 – Sangria by Remi

I love “Sangria” because it’s a nice summery chillin song about a nice day. It’s simple idea. It’s that jazzy kind of hip hop. It’s got jazz flute. Remi has a slick flow, his similes and work play are very neat and he has a good voice. And that’s why it’s my song of the day on a chill Friday. Easy!

You can listen to “Sangria” by Remi here.

18 June 2021 – Sangria by Remi

17 June 2021 – Broken Horses- Santo Domingo Edit by Twin Shadow

You can listen to “Broken Horses – Santo Domingo Edit” by Twin Shadow here.

When I was a kid, before I understood what cultural appropriation was, I wanted cornrows. It’s probably David Beckham’s fault. Anytime I played a video game where I could design a character I would give them cornrows. The album art for “Broken Horses – Santo Domingo Edit” reminds me of a player I might have designed in FIFA 2003 when I downloaded the creation centre.

That’s part of the general home made vibe to “Broken Horses – Santo Domingo Edit” that I like. The track itself is quite low-fi. It feels like it could be written on an old Casio keyboard. The drum beat has that pre programmed feel. It’s the type of thing that could sound cheap with a different artist, but Twin Shadow is such a tremendous songwriter that instead it just highlights what he does so well. His voice and his lyrics are great and it’s a brilliant song. His songs are often heartbreaking and sometimes it feels like the sad boy equivalent to the Olivia Rodrigo song “Good 4 U” for angry heartbroken girls. The songs are so emotive that you forget that you’re not heartbroken. That’s a powerful thing.

17 June 2021 – Broken Horses- Santo Domingo Edit by Twin Shadow

16 June 2021 – Wait (Chromeo Remix) by Maroon 5

You can listen to “Wait (Chromeo Remix)” by Maroon 5 here.

Maroon 5 are a real weird band. Their music is so varied across that pop band space that they end up not really having any kind of identity. The truth is they have some good songs- they had a very good first album, but the good songs punctuate a lot of very lame, very clinical, very grating mega hits. The only two consistent things about them are the volume of music they produce and Adam Levine being intense.

However, if you pull the data from my Spotify, you might think I love Maroon 5. What I actually love is Chromeo’s remix of the Maroon 5 song “Wait”. The Chromeo remix has a totally different feel. It’s got disco guitars and bass. It’s got French house kinda production. It’s a song you can dance to. They seem to keep the main vocals very similar to the original which is bizarre to think about because it’s otherwise completely changed. The last minute or so are probably the highlight. The outro starts with a spacey kind of dripping keyboard added to the main riff. Then they add a classic Chromeo funk keyboard riff with a little more of an echo than they usually use in their own songs. It feels like a cover that really makes the song their own.

From a music industry angle, it’s interesting because this is the official remix. So somebody involved in the Maroon 5 universe pitched it to Chromeo. I think a Chromeo remix of “Wait” would always have gone in this direction so presumably they knew that the original song had the potential to be this good. And they stuck with it anyway…

16 June 2021 – Wait (Chromeo Remix) by Maroon 5

15 June 2021 – Babies by Pulp

“Babies” by Pulp is a great song. I’ve never got too into Pulp, but I like what I’ve heard lyrically from Jarvis Cocker. He’s an odd man.

Musically, it’s interesting. There’s two guitars. Both have a dreamy sound. One has a country music vibe to it. The combination of the guitar, Cocker’s voice and the keyboards create what I think country music in space would sound like, but only space how it was imagined in the 90s.

“Babies” is a demented song really. I like the narrative element of it. I like songwriting as a mode of storytelling in general, but this is a bizarre case. The speaker, who I imagine to be a shrunken version of Jarvis Cocker, has a female friend. Female Friend has an older sister. Shrunken Jarvis Cocker hears the older sister having sex and kinda gets hooked on that and it escalates to the point where he hides in her wardrobe and watches her. Meanwhile, he’s in love with Female Friend, but doesn’t communicate it to her so she moves on to someone else. And then he’s back in the wardrobe up to his old tricks and tells us, across two of the greatest verses of lyrics of all time:

“Well, I guess it couldn’t last too long
I came home one day
And all her things were gone
I fell asleep inside
I never heard her come
And when I opened up the wardrobe
And I had to get it on, yeah

Oh, listen
Oh, we were on the bed when you came home
I heard you stop outside the door
I know you won’t believe it’s true
I only went with her ’cause she looks like you, my god!”

I love the idea that anyone would write this song and record it and the rest of a band would be onboard with it and then a label would get behind it and then it would be on the radio and on TV. There’s the nonchalant perverse voyeurism. There’s the idea that he gets caught being a pervert and things work out for him. There’s the use of the excuse that they look similar so it’s almost a compliment. There’s the idea of telling someone you love them by telling them you want to get them pregnant. It’s deranged. It’s arrogant. It’s ignorant. It’s deluded. But these things make it a wonderful song.

You can listen to “Babies” by Pulp here.

15 June 2021 – Babies by Pulp

14 June 2021 – House Of Holy by Client Liaison

You can listen to “House Of Holy” by Client Liaison here.

I’ve tried to avoid repeating artists and picking new music as my song of the day for as long as I could. I wanted to avoid repetition for as long as I could to keep things varied but it was inevitable that we’d return to Client Liaison sooner rather that later. “House Of Holy” is an incredible song. Sufficiently incredible for me to pick a new song as my song of the day. I wanted this list to be my all time favourites, but it’s been a long time since I’ve loved a song as much as I love this one, so “House Of Holy” makes the cut.

Client Liaison are one of my favourite bands. I love the 100% commitment to being what they are. I’ve seen them live twice, once in Dublin and once in London. It’s pure entertainment. The music is as important as the visual and the clothes and the overall vibe. It all comes together perfectly.

I love “House Of Holy” first and foremost because it a great song dance, as you’d expect from a Client Liaison song produced by Richard Littlemore (of Pnau and Empire of the Sun). I think it’s what I wanted that last Daft Punk album to be when I heard “Get Lucky”. There’s an obvious Nile Rogers influence in the guitars and the keys. The bass is funky. Monte Morgan is an incredible front man and a singer and “House Of Holy” really utilizes his voice in the layered vocals. I love the art for the single as well. It’s like retro futuristic meets The Book of Kells. The whole vibe is happy and hopeful and that’s exactly what I need going into this summer.

14 June 2021 – House Of Holy by Client Liaison

13 June 2021 – Looking back at Tropic Thunder, Dodgeball and Zoolander

There’s a lot of conversations about how comedy has changed . Lots of talk about how cancel culture and political correctness make making comedy impossible. Todd Phillips spoke about it when he was making “Joker”. Graham Linehan has talked about it recently about “Father Ted” having some episodes labelled with racism warnings by Channel 4. Times change and trends in humour change. These people like to talk about how they couldn’t make various things now and maybe they’re right, but if they want to be involved in comedy they need to keep up with the times. And maybe they shouldn’t be trying to make the same kind of comedy twenty years later.

I think we’ve all accepted that lots of films from before 2000 are politically incorrect but they can have a place in culture when we accept that these things aren’t ok. It’s the same caveat that we apply to classic literature like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. For films made since the millennium, it’s a little trickier, because lots of the makers of these films are still around making films and it’s difficult for some people to admit they did problematic shit and made money off the back of it. At the same time, when we revaluate these films, it’s worth considering that some of them have aged terribly and just aren’t funny anymore, irrespective of being un-PC.

This week I watched some of the comedies that I really enjoyed in my teenage years based around the “Frat Pack” of Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, etc. I watched some of my favourites to see if they actually stand the test of time and to see how politically incorrect they were. This will probably be a topic I’ll return to and I’ll try and put together a graphic of good/bad, funny/lame as time goes on. I’m going to discuss them in the order I’ve watched them recently.

Tropic Thunder (2008)

“Tropic Thunder” is towards the end of the period where I felt like the Ben Stiller was funny. He was making sequels to “Meet The Parents” that nobody asked for. “Tropic Thunder” is one of the main films that people say couldn’t be made anymore and maybe they’re right. It has blackface and extensive use of the R-word. The blackface is at the expense of actors rather than at the expense of black people so there’s an argument for its inclusion, but I understand that it’s offensive so I feel that people have a right to avoid it based on that. Amazon Prime had a censor label to say that the film contains blackface when I watched it which I think is appropriate. The whole Simple Jack bit has continued aging badly and I don’t think it works.

Overall, a lot of “Tropic Thunder” is still funny. Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey are good. There were plenty of laughs and they’re mostly at the expense of actors which is always a decent move. Jack Black’s character’s fake trailer before the film was one of my favourite parts. It advertises a film were Jack Black’s character plays all characters and the whole film is based around farting. It’s such a gross idea for a film that would seem unbelievable if we hadn’t all seen Eddie Murphy make those kinds of films for years.

Is it still funny? Mostly very funny, but occasionally not

Could they make it today? They probably could try but I don’t think anyone would try to make it as it was. I don’t think the problematic parts would get the same laughs that they did.

Dodgeball (2004)

“Dodgeball” was always one of my favourites but it hasn’t aged particularly well. Vince Vaughn is pretty lame and I felt like Ben Stiller carried the film for lots of it. It’s making fun of super gyms and that whole superficial culture but it still makes jokes at the expense of a teenage girl with hairy arms among others. It’s not necessarily politically incorrect so much as just unpleasant.

Ben Stiller as White Goodman is a masterpiece. The clothes and hair are top notch. The scene where he’s stuffing pizza down his trousers is magical. I also love Jason Bateman as the co-commentator Pepper Brooks. The wrench throwing and traffic dodging is still funny. Overall though the story is kinda weak and it doesn’t live up to the memories.

Is it still funny? In parts hilarious, in others, unpleasant

Could they make it today? I don’t think it would work today. The story isn’t good enough and Vince Vaughn isn’t a good enough lead. I don’t think the issue is political incorrectness, more using people as the butt of jokes in a mean way.

Zoolander (2001)

I was a little surprised, but “Zoolander” actually stands up the best of the three films I watched this week. In terms of political correctness, it’s not the worst. I’m not sure about the conversation about bulimia, that wasn’t great. In terms of comedy, it’s still very funny. There are a lot of great scenes – the gasoline fight, Ben Stiller’s Derek Zoolander returning to his roots in the mine and Will Ferrell as Mugatu is a work of art. I love when Jerry Stiller is in Ben Stiller movies and he’s great in this as Maury Ballstein. The cameos are fantastic. Some are very obvious like David Bowie and Billy Zane, but my favourite is Justin Theroux as the evil DJ.

Is it still funny? Yes. Absolutely.

Could they make it today? Yes and that’s part of the problem. They tried to make it again and it’s meant to be terrible. I haven’t watched the sequel because I don’t want to be sad.

13 June 2021 – Looking back at Tropic Thunder, Dodgeball and Zoolander

11 June 2021 – Breakup Haircut by Danny and Alex

You can listen to “Breakup Haircut” by Danny and Alex here.

“Break up with me, that’s alright
I’ll just cut my hair tonight
Break up with me, it’s all good (It’s all good)
There’s a barber in my neighborhood”

Some songs are great because they’re insane. “Breakup Haircut” is a wonderfully deranged tune. I’m a big believer in the healing power of a haircut.

11 June 2021 – Breakup Haircut by Danny and Alex

10 June 2021 – It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over by Lenny Kravitz

You can listen to “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” by Lenny Kravitz here.

I don’t know why, but the romantic songs that I like the best are the songs about heartbreak, relationships that don’t work out or relationships that seemed destined to fail. One of my favourites is “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”. I’ve always really liked the sentiment behind it, even if it didn’t really work out for Lenny Kravitz. I like the acknowledgement of problems but the recognition that they were still together despite everything they’d been through together. I think romance needs hope and optimism, otherwise it’s either doomed or cynical.

Lenny Kravitz seems like an odd man and wearing leather trousers is a red flag, but “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” is a gem. The opening drum roll gives it a dramatic introduction. The strings give it a kinda clich├ęd love song vibe but the guitar has a lazy strumming to it that gives the song a strut. The guitar solo has a floaty lost in space sound. Lenny Kravitz’s falsetto is pretty sweet but my favourite part is towards the end when he starts to lose his mind and give it socks.

10 June 2021 – It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over by Lenny Kravitz

09 June 2021 – Fascination by Alphabeat

You can listen to “Fascination” by Alphabeat here.

“Fascination” is another one of my absolute favourite songs. It’s one of the songs that we used to play when my first band just played covers. When we eventually wrote songs we wanted to be Deftones or Smashing Pumpkins, but the songs we covered were always pop songs in the beginning. That was because they’re great fun to play. I think the fact that “Fascination” is fun to play as a band really comes across in the track itself. Alphabeat are just such a bunch of happy bastards that it’s hard not to love them.

The lead singers have a great combination of voices. I feel like the marketing of the band was that she was the front woman and she did most of the singing and he was like a secondary singer. He almost enters into the territory of Baz from The Happy Mondays, just dancing around as a decoration. The truth is his voice was class and the real strength of Alphabeat songs was that the two of them sounded great together.

“Fascination” is a real kids party song. It’s got that safe Danish good time vibe but it’s also based on a real understanding of building pop tunes. The drums are that upbeat soul sound that features in so many of my favourite songs like Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson’s version of Valerie for example. It drives the song and gives it a real groove that makes it a great dance song. The piano and bass create a solid foundation for the the song and the guitar licks add flair to the whole thing. It’s a belter of a tune.

09 June 2021 – Fascination by Alphabeat